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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, on the introductory page, we get a proper uramae subtype graft, as well as mummy rot as a special disease codified within SFRPG’s system – and a feat: Uramae of 5th level and a certain heritage can take that feat and sped 1 Resolve point to infect foes hit with unarmed strikes with mummy rot; this is balanced by a single opponent succeeding on the save being immune to this for 24 hours. This is relevant, because the mummy rot DC scales based on half class level and key ability modifier.

Uramae in the Xa-Osoro system hail from the dead world of Uramesh, and actually are the deoxyian’s progenitor race. They get 4 Hit Points, +2 Con and Int, -2 Dex, are Medium, and have a touch of Spock in them – 1/day, an uramae can take 10 on a d20 roll or “chekc”[sic!], except ones that automatically fail on a natural 1; additionally, they get a +1 racial bonus to a check when taking 11 – essentially, they take 11 instead, which is clever. Uramae are fast – they have a speed of 40 feet and get an extraordinary fly speed with average maneuverability – however, this is thankfully balanced by needing to end movement on ground or fall – they basically can hover-jump short distances. Cool! Additionally, uramae belong to one of two ethnic groups.

The first of these would be the mumiyah – these count as both humanoids and undead, whichever is worse, but are immune to negative energy and get +1 to Fortitude saving throws vs. disease, exhaustion, fatigue, mind-affecting effects, paralysis, sleep effects, and stunning. They count as living for what can affect them, and this ethnicity can take aforementioned feat. They may also be brought back to life.

The second caste, the wsjr, gains Great Fortitude, iron Will, or Lightning Reflexes or Toughness at 1st level, and may take these feats as replacement class features at 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level. Wsjr also gain +1 skill rank at first level and every level thereafter. Really cool: We do get full racial notes that include “If you’re an Uaramae…” and “Others probably…”-sections – kudos for their inclusion!

Uramae lay eggs, as the notes on their life cycle make clear, and speaking of which – we get proper tables for their life cycle, codifying age categories, height and weight – here, the races goes one step beyond SFRPG’s standard, which I wholeheartedly approve of. The Uramae are a race defined in part by calamity – after the schism that split their race into the uramae and the deoxyians, the planet basically slew their home world – and now, in domes cities, the forces of necromancy and means to maintain the scarce resources are all that keeps the race from extinction. Suffice to say, uramae are not particularly fond of their genetic-engineering brethren.

The living wsjr, as a consequence, are actually today the minority of the species, which can be a very interesting twist for the society. Furthermore, there is an interesting further schism – while some could argue that the deoxyians are mutating, evolving at the cost of everything around them, the same can’t be said for the uramae, who believe that their society, a concept they think of as a living entity, reached its pinnacle thousands of years ago. This streak of conservative ideology, paired with a focus on logic, has been thought through in an interesting manner – essentially, the wsjr are a valuable commodity for the mumiyah; treasured and yet, as the wsjr contend, treated as children, as pets. Combined with the unchanging nature of undead, we have a great mirror-image of the sprawling, mutating evolution of deoxyians – a society defined in a way by unchanging stagnation, and yet one that requires the living beings that desire change to maintain its very existence. This is a great basic conundrum and offers plenty of roleplaying potential, particularly if more than one PC is an uramae – one mumiyah and one wsjr certainly make for a great dynamic all on their own.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, .and good on a formal level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and we get artworks for both ethnicities of uramae, which is cool. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas and John Laffan paint a compelling picture of a race split it twain twice – once in the distant past, and, ironically, once by the very structure on which their conservative society is based. I really loved the unique psychological angles explored here, and the clash of themes and how they are explored – the uramae are an interesting race that features sufficient intriguing flavor to make them unique and compelling to play. My one complaint here would be that more information on the cataclysms that wrecked the race, and how it influenced their social order, would have been awesome. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This module clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This module was designed for 6 third level characters, with the suggestion, as always, of a well-rounded party as an ideal means to tackle this one. Fighters will particularly appreciate the numerous occasions where they may execute special, environment-specific mighty deeds of arms – at least I did. As always with Goodman Games’ DCC-modules, we do receive pretty darn impressive b/w-maps, but alas, as always, we do not get player-friendly iterations of the respective maps. On the plus-side, two massive one-page handouts that you can give your players does make up a bit for this shortcoming.

As always, we do receive well-written read-aloud prose to set the stage for each room.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.


..
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All right, only judges around? Great, so first thing: Never show the cover and title to the players – the combination of cover and title are actually a big SPOILER, and can really wreck one of the key-scenes of the adventure.

Second thing: Even though this adventure has a serious marine/water-theme, it actually isn’t focused on underwater adventuring, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t find it here. (As a plus: Unlike the horrible “Shadow under Devil’s Reef”, it tackles water and the chances to drown with rules that make sense and are fun, so that’s a plus, even if it’s not the core component of the adventure.

Now, the damsel in distress is nowadays a cliché, to the point where the subversion of the cliché has become its own cliché, which, arguably, these days is seen more often than the original angle. The primary hook of this adventure is just that – the PCs manage to get their hands on a magical token, and are thereafter sent strange dream-missives from a gorgeous queen beneath the waves, imprisoned by a vile wizard, who beseeches them to free her. Interesting here: In contrast to many other systems, DCC actually does have its share of “rescue lady”-angles that have not been perverted/inverted, and as such, paired with DCC’s patron-engine powered propensity for spellcasters to be (even more) corrupt (than usual), the angle, if sold properly to the PCs, may actually work, when in mainstream D&D-iterations, the Ackbar-memes wouldn’t stop – ever.

This module pits the PCs against the defensive measures left by the grand sea-wizard Shadankin, who mysteriously vanished ages ago. Cealheewhalool, the sea queen in question, directs the PCs towards the first of the small dungeons herein – Shadankin’s Sanctum, where jumping from levitating turtle-shell to turtle-shell and grotesque lamprey-men, this is a cool start – I was particularly enjoying the notion of finding jelly-fish diving suits – for the PCs will have to dive into a lake that doubles as a giant hammer-head’s hunting ground to extract a mythic horn from a giant clam shell.

And yes, fighting underwater rules are provided. Indeed, this is one aspect of the module that deserves applause: None of the encounters throughout the locations within are boring or even mediocre – there’s something special going on in each of the rooms, with unique chests, terrain features and hazards providing, as a whole, a sense of a neatly-structured, thoroughly detailed and creative adventure. In a way, it is the inverse of the author’s Stonehell mega-dungeon, which I love for its own merits: If you’re familiar with that one, picture this module as featuring unique terrain features and treasure for pretty much everything.

The sanctum deserves another shout-out for a practice I really loved: You see, the adventure, as noted, has two handouts, right? Well, on each, we can see strange drawings and scenes, which can provide cryptic clues – and make sure that the story starts making sense in hindsight. The scenes do not act as spoilers per se, but cautious players may well derive information from them. Getting the balancing act between too cryptic and exposition dump by another means right is one of the impressive aspects of this adventure.

Speaking of impressive: Turns out that Shadankin had a compact with an entity most potent – blowing the horn summons mighty Tudines, a colossal turtle of island-plus-size, but only once every 3 years – so the PCs better make sure their sojourn into the second of the dungeon locales, which is a sealed complex within the inside of the turtle’s shell, matters. The vault of the turtle is the most linear of the dungeons contained in this adventure, and it makes sense – after all, this place is intended as one o safe-keeping. Giant anemones and box jellyfish acting as deadly treasure chests of sorts may be encountered here – and a warning spells doom for the PCs. Indeed, pillaging the vault will incur the sea curse – a switching of minds that is represented in real life by character sheets being cycled. (And if only one PC fails, an alternative is provided.) I really enjoyed this, as, much like a lot in this module, it is systematically designed to generate an experience that emphasizes player skill over that of the character.

Anyhow, with the key from the turtle’s vault in hand, the PCs make off towards the final small dungeon herein, which is situated upon the isle of Lone Ait – a forlorn place, trapezoidal, and wrecked by the forces of nature; the water surrounding the place tainted with oil and tar-like slick. Indeed, in a nice twist on the traditional elemental oppositions, we have an earth-themed dungeon here, with glowing amber spheres, tether balls that may be used by mighty fighter and the like awaiting – the guardians left here, from living tar to special, strange lizards, are not to be trifled with, and a final warning also is left – but in that final room, the sea queen and her handmaidens, gorgeous and in stasis, await. Freeing them, alas, will have them attack as soon as they’re out of immediate danger – turning into the monsters so aptly-depicted on the gorgeous cover. You see, Shadankin and Cealheewhalool once were lovers, and both adepts to the dark and unreliable arts of sorcery; Cealheewhalool was corrupted through and through, while Shadankin was not – thus, he imprisoned his lover, looking for a means to undo the calamity that had befallen his sea-queen. He never returned.

Thus, the queen of sunken Ru languished, until the wards started to fail, initiating the sequence of events depicted in this adventure. Defeating her will make the PCs friends of the sunken nation of Ru, which is depicted in an appendix of sorts, including hex map and currents – while I adore the depiction of the latter on the hex-map, this section also made me cognizant of a few shortcomings – for one, the currents should have strong mechanical repercussions, and the module could have been so much cooler with a bit more underwater action, particularly one enhanced by such cool ideas.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Goodman Games’ two-column b/w-standard, with the b/w-artworks as fantastic pieces throughout; the handouts in particular are great, and the maps are awesome; alas, no player-friendly versions are provided for the maps.

I am a pretty big fan of Michael Curtis’ writing – from his Stonehell mega-dungeon to his more well-known work for Goodman games, he knows what he is doing. In this adventure, I was particularly enraptured by the strength of each of the dungeon-complexes – they all make sense from an in-game point of view, they all have distinct, yet linked themes, and there is not a single boring room to be found herein. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed by the adventure. It took me a long time to properly enunciate why that is. I loved pretty much everything, so why didn’t this click in the same way as “Blades Against Death”, for example? In the end, my response has to boil down to one word: Scope. While more actual underwater action would have been nice, I did not expect that, and the module doesn’t need it to be a great experience.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel that all of the 3 complexes would have simply deserved more room to shine. All complexes are strong and jam-packed with ideas, generating a sense of a highlight-reel; however, they are done very quickly. They don’t have much time to fully develop their themes and atmosphere, teach the PCs and players their unique traits – they happen, awe your players, and then they’re already over. This is nothing bad per se, and for e.g. a convention, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better modules to drive home the weird/metal-fantasy aspect of DCC. This notwithstanding, with a few more pages, a few more rooms per complex, this could have been a milestone for the ages. As presented, we “only” have a pretty darn good module, bordering on excellence, but not wholly reaching it. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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***( )( )

The second Thunderscape Vista clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All righty, we once more begin this supplement with a brief in-character flavor-text before diving into the background, which is a bit simpler this time around: The Darkfall happened, which changed the requirements and realities of village life and what it takes to stay alive. They are fortified by necessity. If you’re familiar with the first Thunderscape Vista, you’ll notice a flip of the amount of text that is provided for general descriptions and those that depict the realities of the sample village within, which would be Syldan. This is a VERY smart move, as villages obviously are much more familiar to GMs. It should btw. be noted that yes, the generalization notes do actually provide some useful advice when introducing such a village and making sure that they make sense in Aden’s context.

As in the first installment, a big draw for the pdf would be the inclusion of a full-color map, and much to my elation, I found a player-friendly version sans annoying, immersion breaking numbers included: Minor complaint: Quarters are named on the map, and in this instance, going wholly description-less would have made the map more useful. As provided, the “Merchant’s Quarter” will now forevermore be that, as it’s written in bold letters on the map. The pond is also clearly labeled as “Syldan’s Pond”, which limits the use of the map essentially to only working as intended for the sample village within.

The pdf does something smart as it proceeds, though: Instead of providing lame, generic sample villager stats, of which most GMs will have an abundance at this point anyways, the pdf instead features a total of 6 different, named NPCs with full statblocks, including two rather awesome full-color artworks. The first of these would be Hannah Arroven, a female ferran panda ranger 7 adopted by the folks in the village at an early, she grew to become the champion of the people. On the plus-side, I never thought I’d say this, but the lean panda-lady looks extremely badass. Her artwork is genuinely amazing. Her statblock, however, is not – she lacks spells and sports a couple of minor formatting snafus. Harril Arroven would be a level 4 half-elven arbiter, and while he had a bitter childhood, he remains a steadfast fighter. Weird: His wife is noted in the header, but no stats are provided. From the context, I assume her to be a noncombatant, but I’m not sure, since the adoptive kinda-dad of Harril, Claudius, is actually fully statted as a human enchanter 9. Alas, as before, the formatting here isn’t as tight as it should be.

Speaking of formatting gone horribly awry: Typhon, once a scholar of forbidden lore now turned into a CR 9 monster, has change shape and similar abilities jammed into his SQs, notes “Pick 23” for languages and, you guessed it, spells or magic items aren’t italicized, but at least properly chosen. This massive formatting snafu really drags down what would otherwise be an impressive BBEG, for his sabertooth tiger shapechanging is as cool and twisted as his per se nice baseline…I just wished the statblock had received a bit of refinement to make it shine properly. Leona, his erstwhile wife, is btw. one of the reasons Typhon has not achieved his goal – the bard 5 is also fully stated. It should be noted that CMD values incorrectly feature a plus before their values. The final NPC would be a wildcard of sorts, with the level 6 rogue Sergei, who is keen to leave the region.

The pdf has a new trait, home guard, which does not specify its trait type, though background seems likely. This one nets you a massive, erroneously untyped +3 bonus to AC while fighting defensively. The pdf also sports a new feat, One of the Pack; this unlocks pack mentality for non-ferrans and nets you a +1 morale bonus to atk and damage when flanking.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are not particularly good, particularly on a formal level. You can run this, but it’s not as smooth as it should be. The full-color artworks are original pieces and GORGEOUS, and layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard. The cartography is full color and pretty damn neat, and the presence of the player-friendly version is a big plus. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Shawn Carman’s besieged village would per se be an instant recommendation – I liked the NPCs, the map’s cool – what’s not to like? The formatting. It’s really, really bad. To the point where it seriously detracted from my enjoyment of this pdf, where it really hurt this file. My final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This plug-in for Wrath of the Righteous clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The first part of the pdf deals with so-called “Corrupted classes”, representing once pure targets that have been, in some ways, tainted by the harsh reality of the environment they work in – such as the Worldwound. The first of these would be the anarchist inquisitor, who receives access to mesmerist spells, but requires an (un-) holy symbol to cast them – this replaces monster lore and track. Domain is relegated to 3rd level, and all domain powers behave as though two levels lower, but to make up for that, the anarchist may freely choose domains and subdomains, disregarding deity portfolios, and change a domain or subdomain every 3 levels after 3rd. Minor nitpick: The ability’s header isn’t properly bolded here. Instead of detect alignment, we have a +2 to saving throws vs. divinations, and alignment may only be discerned if the CL exceeds inquisitor levels by 4 or more. At 3rd level, we replace solo tactics and 3rd 6th and 9th level’s teamwork feats with the graffiti ability, which is powered by judgment expenditure, but otherwise does not follow its rules. A graffiti is essentially an at-will arcane mark. Optionally, as a full-round action, a judgment use may be used to create enhanced graffiti, which defames a target, imposing a Charisma penalty on the target when interacting with creatures that can see the graffiti. The penalty scales, and duration may be enhanced by expending more judgment uses. Additionally, later, graffiti may duplicate glyphs of warding, that instead of holding a spell, either demoralize or alter a creature’s attitude. At 9th level, we then get the fully functional magic graffiti that can convey mind-affecting effects. Discern lies is replaced with class level rounds of detect charm per day, with said spell (hyperlink here not italicized) and suppress charms and compulsions added to spells known. The teamwork feats usually attained at 12th, 15th and 18th level are replaced by the ability to expend judgments to generate a potent and longer lasting variant of song of discord –proper riot instigation, essentially. 17th level nets immunity to mind-affecting divinations and compulsions instead of slayer. Really cool archetype here!

The Black Mage kineticist archetype is pretty out there – you first need to have the dark elementalist AND elemental annihilator archetypes to even contemplate taking this one – yep, it’s a third archetype stacked atop of the two! The black mage may freely choose on whether to use Intelligence or Constitution to determine the damage caused by wild-talents, the DCs and durations of Constitution-based wild talents, bonus on concentration checks and other class-related effects – this may be done freely and is NOT an action. The archetype nets two feats at first level, the first of which would be Burning Thunder of Omnikinesis. This one lets you choose to take a -40 penalty to Stealth, as you emit light like a sunrod. This feats also locks you into using it whenever you gather power, and it may not be used in social identity, if available through e.g. Incredible Hidden Power. When this feat is active and you use a feat, trait, wild talent, kinetic blast or kineticist class ability that deals one of the 4 core elemental damage types, you may freely opt to choose one of the other 3 damage types instead as a swift action, changing the descriptor, if anything, of the effect. Non-damaging effects remain unchanged, unless the changed energy type invalidates them, subject to GM’s discretion – and this is the key sentence here that prevents this feat from being ridiculously overpowered. That and the daily use cap of 3 + wild talent-governing key ability modifier. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a VERY strong option, but this caveat does indeed eliminate a lot of the tricks you can usually execute with blasts.

The second feat gained at 1st level would be Heir to Power Unstable, the single longest feat I’ve read so far…wait…do you also have a déjà-vu? Yep, this was originally featured in Occult Archetypes II. HOWEVER, close reading of the two actually yields an interesting observation – the feat as presented in this book, while still providing various unique effects depending on elemental focus, etc., has actually been changed in comparison – what previously caused bleed damage, for example, now causes animals and non-sentient animals to attempt to leave the area. The feat has been retooled, to the point where I consider it to be a flavorful and action economy-wise powerful option, and one that I’d allow in my campaign. Pleasant surprise! On the downside, this feat mentions rage or bloodrage in the prerequisite lines – both of which do not belong there.

I already mentioned Incredible Hidden power, another feat that makes a return here – this one also mentions rage/bloodrage, but here, it makes sense – the feat has been expanded, and in case you don’t remember it, it basically nets you a seamless guise/dual identity akin to the vigilante, with themagical child’s transformation sequence. It makes you social identity meeker, and the feat does scale at higher levels, with this book’s iteration also adding in a rage/bloodrage-interaction: These class features are not available per se in social identity, but may be used to tap into e.g. rage powers at increased costs, allowing for an interesting additional multiclass support-angle. The feat also provides a means to Bluff targets regarding your spellcasting in social identity, which, while something I appreciate concept-wise, would have been better off in another feat – this one already does A LOT, and this aspect imho is a bit overkill.

But I digress – let’s return to the black mage archetype. At 1st level, the character gets a masterwork staff that automatically rejuvenates if destroyed or lost upon resting, and that staff is required to use any supernatural kineticist abilities. The staff does not count as an occupied hand fo the purposes of kineticist class features, and all black mage’s wild talents are considered to be arcane, divine and psychic – all effects that resist one of the three are applied to all spells and supernatural effects a black mage uses as a kind of balancing drawback. Black mages only inflict half damage on undead or living creatures with negative energy affinity, and they may never gain kinetic healer. The black mage does not gain internal buffer, but is treated as having it for the purpose of the Force-Focusing Oath feat. This feat, alas, is still missing its prerequisite line. Kudos for the layout of Absorb Violent Energies, another feat from Occult Archetypes II – its presentation in this iteration is cleaner.

Black mages also are treated as having the Craft Wondrous item feat and a CL equal to character level, but only for the purpose of making a lich’s phylactery. While we’re on the subject matter of kineticist options, let us discuss some of the other feats within, shall we? By Blackest Ink lets you read scrolls and cast arcane spells from them at class level -4, and lets you use UMD to decipher them instead of Spellcraft – without read magic. (Spell-reference not italicized); the feat also nets you a scaling Intelligence bonus boost for the purpose of determining the spell levels you can cast from scrolls, which is pretty clever. Initiate of Thanatokinesis builds on By Blackest Ink, and nets you limited access to necromancy SPs, with burn costs – the feat may be taken multiple times, may not be used in sunlight, and is pretty damn cool.

Fierce Fiendish Brilliance allows you to BOTH be an Elemental Ascetic and gain the Dark Elementalist archetype, with free choice between Intelligence and Wisdom regarding the determination of what acts as key ability score modifier. This may be taken as a faith trait for adherents of evil deities, which makes sense, considering that it’s basically a multiarchetyping enabler – and before you scream that this is still too potent, if taken this way, it does come with a pretty extensive set of limitations and modifications. I liked this.

The pdf also contains 2 vigilante archetypes – the gore fiend is a vigilante with an evil vigilante identity; the archetype loses vigilante specialization and instead gets a bite attack, and damaging targets nets viscera points – these may be used to enter unchained barbarian-style rages and select rage powers, with higher levels providing the means to auto-cannibalize. Viscera may be used at higher levels for limited healing etc. Kudos: No kittens were harmed during the making of this archetype, i.e. you can’t cheese it by eaten harmless, cute animals. Rot Fiend is a feat for the gore fiend, which lets you gain viscera from undead. I like this one.
Hellion vigilantes are the damned that have somehow escaped – they have one last chance at redemption (or existence) and may use hellfire. Annoyingly, this one of the archetypes that still hasn’t learned that there is no such thing as profane damage in PFRPG, which pretty much immediately disqualifies it for me. They use this make-believe energy type to enhance weapons, curse targets, etc. – nothing remarkable, and frankly, not worth the hassle of being riled up about the damage type.

The order of the blood knight cavalier order, on the other hand, is pretty cool: Unable to grant mercy, these fellows are bleeding specialists and can hijack the healing of challenge targets and cause bleeding to those nearby. Nasty and neat. The riven medium essentially gets a variation of dual identity that focuses on personality traits and alignment instead, representing compartmentalized component of nasty psychological traits. The archetype can tap into this power and manifest it to enhance spells to e.g. deal bleed damage, and being in mortal danger may see this personality surface. This does render the character more susceptible to evil effects, but we have DR and DC-increases to make up for this. Really enjoyed this engine-tweak with its unique roleplaying angle.

There are two class options presented for characters holding strong to their ideals, the first of which would be the grail knight paladin, who gets to choose an outsider subtype to detect, as though with detect demons, and may detect the chosen subtype via detect evil. This replaces third level’s mercy. Divine health is replaced with the Worldwound counting as favored terrain and immunity to the tainted plague. Channeling is tweaked to heal good and harm evil outsiders, and smite evil’s 4th, 10th and 16trh level uses are replaced with a favored enemy style passive boost versus the chosen evil outsider. Divine bond is replaced with the ability to designate a forged, holy cup as a grail-simulacrum,, which can enhance healing. Its duration may also be expended in a rather wide variety of ways that include SPs, anointing weaponry, etc. Mercy-synergy is also provided with it, and divine bond is relegated to 9th level, with the same level also enhancing attacks versus the chosen outsiders. All in all, one of the better nemesis-style archetypes.

Moon howlers are summoners with diminished spellcasting and a quadruped eidolon resembling a moon dog, with an obviously modified summon monster list. The archetype loses (greater) shield ally and merge forms with the ability to lick the wounds of targets, healing them with scaling effects, and the (greater) aspect as well as maker’s call and transposition abilities are replaced with a scaling array of howl-based supernatural effects that are balanced via a hex-caveat and and the use of summon monster SPs as a limited resource.

A massive section of the pdf is devoted to so-called cursed archetypes that begin play impoverished and with a minor penalty to saves, but also skill boosts and some spells added to spell list. Druid, shaman, bloodrager, kineticist, investigator, medium, mesmerist, occultist, psychic, sorcerer, spiritualist, sumnmoner and witch are provided, and oracle curse would be a leitmotif that may be found here, with the druid becoming a spontaneous spellcaster and gaining a witch patron being the most pronounced modification here – this is essentially an engine-tweak chapter, and one that I generally enjoyed.

Now, I’ve already touched upon quite a few of the feats from said chapter, but I should also mention the one that makes you a survivor of aforementioned tainted plague (which is btw. statted for your edification as a hazard); it is, alongside Thrallborn, Warped Mind and Twisted Flesh, one of the feats that basically help contextualize a character’s starting angle,as they are 1st-level only feats.

Blazing Bolts Against the Darkness requires being a Gray Paladin, but allows for the taking of divine hunter as an archetype as well; and with Oathbound, you can have further multiclass synergy with classes like slayer, inquisitor or gunslinger (if you have Mysterious Stranger). Dark Forces Adept would be another multiclass enabler, allowing you to use arcane pool, grit, ki, panache or touch of corruption interchangeably, and also nets some SPs with these resources. It should be pretty evident that this allows you to escalate resources fast – I’m not a fan, and would relegate this to NPCs only. (Granted, it’s only for non-good characters, but still…) Comprehend the Corrupted is narrative gold and allows you to determine whether someone would be swayed to your side, the motivations of the target, etc. Cruel Kiss of Thunder is a massive feat for antipaladins, druids or cityskin warlocks with the proper domains and feats, netting you cantrips, the modification of touch of corruption to deal half electricity damage and inflict bonus conditions, and also synergy of domains and bloodlines. Thrashing Heart of the Shockwave builds on that and nets you the Dark Force Adept feat as well as a further synergy there.Sorcerous Damnation provides a similarly complex operation, providing a crossover between Eldritch Heritage and antipaladin abilities.
Fiendfoe is a bland anti-evil-outsider feat to identify them better and deal more damage to them. Not a fan. Flesh of Many Skins is a really cool wild shape tweak that lets you quickly change shapes and nets you partial swarm traits due to your rapidly-shifting proto-bestial form – however, this does also make you susceptible to AoE attacks. Redeemed Scoundrel nets you a couple of skill bonuses and two rogue class skills or a rogue talent.

There are also two complex feats for Pazuzu-adherents – Senses of the Shrike and Awareness of Dark Winds, which make you aware of your title/name being uttered, with such fools also suffering from you getting bonuses, treating them as studied target or favored enemy, and you may denote them as quarry; oh, and you may eat such fools to know when they first heard or read your name. This can make for a truly frightening, awesome villain. Love them! Warp Sense makes you potentially aware of teleportation and allows you to prevent teleportation-based ambushes. Useful one!

The pdf features two magic items – razor claw guards and razor mouthguard, which basically net you pseudo-natural attacks that may enhanced as a whole. Decent, but not mind-blowing.

The final section deals with feats based on a new one – Bright-Burning Super-Sanity, which requires that you can accept Burn. It allows you to mitigate Burn by one or more points, but when you do, you roll on a d20 table – these may entail becoming super-honest, a random phobia, language-loss, etc. – a phobia and obsession table is provided as well. One issue: I think defining “Mind Burn” would make sense - I don’t think I know what that’s supposed to be. I assume Burn applying to a mental ability score. The feats building on this allow for rolling twice (or choosing a 16), and the second lets you also roll a d8, gaining one of 7 (is there one missing?) effects. The 7th effect also lacks italics in the header, and a spell-reference is not italicized here.

The conclusion can be found here!


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

***( )( )

This installment of the Starfarer Adversaries-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first thing – the invaders are not classified or codified, leaving them a mystery for the GM, which is a nice plus. It should also be noted that the builds make use of material from Starfarer’s Companion, but, as a huge plus, don’t require the use of the book – the special ability of the war machines referencing a spell has all relevant effects stated.

The invader war-machines within come in three classes: At CR 6, at CR 10 and at CR 14. From low to high CR, we have the scout-class, the assault class and the destroyer class. The builds use the combatant array. The war machines are technological constructs, and the latter two have a special ability invested to increase their saves by +1. The destroyer class’s base kick attack is off by 1 unless I’m sorely mistaken; it should be +25. The machines also seem to have counted Perception as a good skill granted by the array, when Perception is bestowed *generally* as a free good skill; consider that these are machines, I can get behind the choice to make the skill count towards the skill maximum here. I am a bit puzzled that all of the war machine’s attacks use the low attack column’s value as a base, though. Multiattack options have been properly implemented.

On a nice side, the critters do include unique signature abilities, namely the option to grab targets and stuff them into a prisoner cage – escape from these is properly noted (though “full-round” as a duration for attempted checks should probably instead refer to “full action”); prisoners may be used by the war machines as a kind of living battery, affecting them with vampiric touch – this would be aforementioned spell, and the effects, namely negative energy damage and healing of the war machines, are covered properly. The destroyer class war machine also emits toxic clouds as a reaction, which can nauseate those nearby when they have consumed 4 CR or more. This can be a tad bit wonky. Nice: A Small sidebar provides some suggestions for default prisoners.

It should be noted that the artwork comes in a one-page, handout-style version – neat!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a kickass, original piece of artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jacob E. Blackmon shows that he can not only draw cool artworks, he can also design some nice critters. The invader war machines are interesting and solid – not exactly world-shaking, sure, but they are fun and a nice addition if you need some nasty technological harvesters for your Mass Effect style invasion or similar storylines. Considering the low and fair price-point, I consider this to be worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This Star Log.EM-installment 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 being an expansion for the Zoomer base class, I obviously assume familiarity with the class in this review.

After a brief bit of contextualizing the zoomer, we dive right in with new zoomer stunts. The pdf presents 8 different ones that may be taken at 2nd level. The first one is already pretty interesting in its execution – it halves the time required to take 20, and allows you to execute skill checks that require 2+ rounds in half the time. This may not sound like much, but it can mean the difference between death and survival. Extra kudos: The stunt accounts for social skills – since they are contingent on talking and not supernaturally quick thinking, these are exempt. Agile charge allows you to charge through difficult terrain, and also makes the target of your charge lose eligibility to an AoO when you charge it.

Broken Delay is anything but – it is a genuinely cool trick that’ll make the zoomer feel more novel: When you delay, you may do so at any point during your turn, even after taking actions. If you come out of delay, you only have the remaining actions upon going into delay. This is kept in check by requiring a rest of Resolve Point expenditure to use it again. This one imho warrants getting the pdf all on its own. Devastating momentum adds ½ class level to the damage output of your small arms or operative weapons when using a move action or charging as a full action. When firing a weapon in a vehicle chase, you roll twice and use the better result, providing the vehicle moved its speed or more. Cool! Fast fingers lets you grab or retrieve unattended or stowed/stored items as a swift action. You can’t do so if it would usually require a standard action or more, and it requires having the Quick Draw feat nice. (As an aside: There is a stunt that, bingo, nets you Quick Draw.)

Lock and load lets you reload a small arms or melee weapon with the operative and powered special properties as part of moving your speed – once more, you can’t do so if this would take longer than a standard action. Smooth piloting reduces your vessel-based Piloting penalty if moving at full speed; and yes, this has star ship relevant repercussions accounted for as well!

At 8th level, we have 7 more stunts for the zoomer: Confounding speed. When you move at least 10 feet and attack a target, the opponent must succeed on a Perception check; on a failure, they become flat-footed against all of the zoomer’s attacks until next turn. This also has extra benefits for vehicles and star ships! Now, as a minor nitpick, the stunt does not specify a DC here, which means you default to the default DCs – this is not bad, mind you, as the DCs are pretty sensible and reflect well the intention of the stunt, but explicitly stating such would have prevented less rules-savvy individuals being puzzled there for a second – to make that clear, this does not make you invisible or anything, but it makes skirmishing much more viable..

Gust lets you leave a blast of water or wind in your wake when charging , running or withdrawing – this can render targets prone or off-kilter (in zero-G) on a failed Reflex save. The stunt costs 1 Resolve Point, and being extraordinary, does not conjure forth water or air, as such being contingent on environmental factors. Maneuvering charge lets you combo charges with a maneuver chosen via Improved Combat Maneuver, and it has grapple synergy, which is nice. Minor nitpick: This should specify that it has Improved Combat Maneuver as a prerequisite, otherwise it doesn’t do jack RAW. A synergy with the racing attack class feature would have been prudent here as well, as that one doesn’t require the feat. Reactive dodge lets you use your reaction for a +4 dodge bonus to AC, but renders you off-target. Nice. Run for cover is not only one of my favorite Project Pitchfork tracks, it also allows you to move zoom dash distance as a reaction to move out of AoE effects, which is great – however, you better know your distances, for if you still end up in it, you incur a penalty to Reflex saves. I love this, as it emphasizes PLAYER skill over character skill. Parquor has rules for charging through blocked or movement slowing places and creatures – cool!

Temporal recall requires a rest and Resolve expenditure to use again, but oh boy. It lets you chronically affix your position and condition, and then, for 3 rounds, you may recall that state as a reaction. This is very strong, but also absolutely brilliant and super-exciting regarding what you can do with it. Love it!

The pdf also offers 4 stunts that are unlocked at level 14 for the taking: Accelerated analysis lets you either roll a d20 twice and take the higher result, or reroll a check, depending on whether you pay the Resolve cost before or after you roll. Love it! (And yep, this requires accelerated acumen.) Bamboozling speed builds on confounding speed and makes it apply to all targets threatened during movement, which is brutal, but also very much iconic. Blinding speed also builds on confounding speed and requires 1 Resolve Point to use, but adds the insult of being blinded to the injury of being flat-footed or off-kilter. It also explicitly allows you to hide in conjunction with the stunt – and yep, at this level, this type of stratagem is well-placed. Splintered time, finally, expands the iconic broken delay ability mentioned before. This one lets you spend Resolve Points when coming out of delay to regain actions – the costs are steep and a bit nova-y, but the tricks you can pull off with this? Oh yeah!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level – apart from one talent not listing an obvious prerequisite as a courtesy to players with limited system mastery, I am bereft of stuff to truly complain about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this point.

David N. Ross doesn’t hit one homerun, to speak in a baseball-metaphor, but a whole series of them as far as I’m concerned. This is a true must-own supplement for anyone wishing to play a speedster class. The potent, but sensible options for the zoomer class ooze awesomeness on every turn; from emphasizing player agenda to actually presenting meaningful skirmishing tricks and means to influence action economy, this humble pdf exemplifies how damn awesome a small expansion for a class can potentially be. I liked the zoomer before – now, I love it. 5 stars, seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019. Seriously, if you’ve been on the fence about the zoomer before, get the class, get this pdf, and start grinning. This is absolutely inspired!

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series 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!

All right, as often with the series, we begin with some notes on the ever-expanding lore of the Xa-Osoro system before we dive into the new mechanics – these would be three mechanic tricks, the first of which would be the 2nd level trick Glitch Item. As a standard action, you can upload a virus into a touched item, requiring a Computers check (DC based on 15 + 1.5 times the item’s level); carried items require a touch attack versus EAC. If you have wireless hack, you can do so at short range; on a success, the item gains the glitched condition for 1d4 rounds, +1 round for every point by which you exceeded the Computers check. Thankfully, there is a caveat that makes an item immune for 24 hours to the condition after targeting, preventing lockdown exploits. At 6th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to bypass this, attempting to target the item again.

But wait, was is that “glitched” condition? Items that are glitched don’t work properly. An item may make a Fortitude save at the start of each round to shake off the condition, using either its item level or the wearer/wielder’s Fortitude save, whichever is higher. On a failure, the item takes a penalty governed by item type, and an Engineering check can determine whether an item is glitching. Armor increases its armor check penalty and decreases maximum Dexterity bonus, while also imposing a negative speed adjustment. Augmentations can’t be activated or provide no benefits and same goes for computers or technological items. Vehicles lose access to special systems and become uncontrolled, though a pilot may attempt to counteract that with Piloting. Weapons take a -4 penalty to atk, save DCs of critical effects and special properties, if any. Interesting: This penalty doubles on natural 20s to determine critical hits – analog weapons are immune – nice catch! Tiny nitpick of a purely cosmetic nature – while it is apparent from context, archaic weapons should be exempt here as well; while most archaic weapons implicitly are analog as well, this RAW does not necessarily have to be the case. There is another component here that GMs should be aware of, namely that RAW, the combination of wireless hack and augmentations etc. allows for the targeting of potentially vital systems to maintain the life of targets – since wireless hack does not require line of sight, this may be relevant. Personally, I actually like this component for once, as it simply makes sense to me, and there is still a save. Still, it’s something to potentially bear in mind as a component that needs to be observed closely.

The pdf also features two 8th level mechanic tricks, both of which require the glitch item trick as a prerequisite. The first allows you to substitute inflicting the glitched condition for your regular critical effect, and the second is unique: When glitching weapons and exceeding the DC by 5 or more, you may cause the weapon if it misses by 5 or more to ricochet into a nearby creature instead. This accounts for the differences between melee and ranged weapons, and even AoE weapon effects properly, and as a reaction, you can spend 1 Resolve Point when using glitch item to improve the effects as per this trick. Interesting!

The rest of the pdf is taken up by the magelock spell, though one should probably instead call it “spells” – it is available for technomancers at spell levels 1 – 6, and lock out special abilities behind mental firewalls. This spell-group is very interesting, in that it allows you to prevent the use of anything from racial features to themes to spells or SPs. The unique component here would be that the pdf, for one, does account for class features that have a representation in the game world (such as drones), makes the level-based scaling matter, etc. – it also RAW does not eliminate prerequisite-used features or feats – the respective ability is locked down, but RAW, the follow-up abilities are not. While the respective and pretty detailed spell level notes seem feasible, a kneejerk reaction to this spell would be to consider it OP, but the option affected is random, UNLESS you have previously identified an ability of the target. In short: The power of this spell is utterly contingent on the PC’s roleplaying and how well they do their leg-work – and that is a design-paradigm I can get behind!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level, apart from a who’s/whose glitch, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a nice artwork, penned in Jacob Blackmon’s signature style. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas and Sasha Hall provide a surprisingly fun and impactful Star log.EM this time around; if there is one thing to complain about here, then that would be that the concept and condition would have deserved a Star Log.DELUXE-sized installment to realize their full potential. As provided, this is a tantalizing glimpse of a cool mechanic, one that, while potent, is tied in a way I absolutely love to the notion of rewarding good roleplay, as opposed to simply providing numerical boosts. The fact that every very potent use herein is, to a degree, linked to doing the right investigative things is a big plus for me. As such, this does receive a final verdict of 5 stars. Can I haz moar?

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This supplement clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what are wyrmtouched? As you could glean from the structure of the denoting compound, wyrmtouched are essentially a novel take on the draconic-heritage race; instead of assuming a singular cultural heritage, the race adheres to a similar origin paradigm as planetouched races, resulting in wyrmtouched being born to parents of different races, provided they have the requisite traces of draconic blood in their ancestry. The write-up thus assumes parental races for the physical vital characteristics, and then presents to provide the notes on alignment, adventuring, etc.

Racial stat-wise, the wyrmtouched have +2 Strength and Wisdom, -2 Dexterity, are Medium and are humanoids with the dragonkin subtype (properly codified, just fyi). They get a +2 racial bonus to Perception, and a properly codified primary bite attack for 1d6 damage. They have both darkvision and low-light vision, and a +2 racial bonus on saves vs. magical sleep effects and paralysis, and regarding creature type, they are treated as dragons. They also receive resistance 5 against the damage type of their supernatural breath weapon. This is chosen from among the 4 core energy types, and is either a 15-foot cone or a 30-foot line that may be used Constitution modifier times per day, minimum 1, inflicting 1d6 + Constitution modifier damage of the chosen energy type. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the damage output of the breath weapon by +1d6. All in all, a potent race, but one that I#d allow in all my games. Kudos!

A total of 17 different alternate racial traits are provided, and include natural armor instead of resistance, a powerful tail (properly codified) instead of resistance and low-light vision, and instead of breath and resistance, you can be Large. You could have vast lifespans, or get +1 HP per level at the cost of reduced speed and the loss of draconic resistance. You could also be Small, and application of these traits to generate sub-races is provided. This section deserves applause, in that it shows a very keen awareness of the power of all racial abilities and their respective payoffs. There is one alternate trait that may require a bit of oversight for some games – wyrm wings nets you flight from level 1 onwards, but only at a clumsy maneuverability and 30 ft., with higher levels later increasing that. While this does cost breath weapon, I personally prefer the “needs to end movement on solid earth or fall”-angle for the levels up to 5th, but then again, I tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to unassisted PC flight at low levels. The race does come with its own vital statistics, just fyi.
Want a wyrmtouched that is sourced from a specific dragon-class? Well, fret not – the supplement provides 8 (!!) different variant wyrmtouched, each with their own ability score modifiers, and they replace the racial Perception skill boost with another skill. Huge kudos: None of the options here are lopsided or jeopardize the intricate balance of the base race.

The supplement also provides a total of 12 different traits, all of which are properly grouped in trait categories. They allow for e.g. the sue of Wisdom instead of Constitution as governing ability score for wyrmtouched racial abilities, enhanced maneuverability with wings, increased DCs, etc. – the traits per se are in line with the proper power-level for them, and remain viable options that alter the experience of playing a wyrmtouched in a meaningful way – in short, they are really nice examples of what you can do with them. The race also features a massive list of well-crafted favored class options for all Paizo classes (excluding ninja + samurai) – yes, this includes the ones from ACG and OA, as well as the vigilante and shifter. As a nice piece of service for folks like yours truly, the latter one’s write-up does provide an option to tweak it for the imho superior Legendary Shifter.

So, that would be the racial base-line, but we’re not even close to covering the amount of material featured within this book: The authors have obviously understood that, particularly for a race with an eclectic background like the wyrmtouched, there is a necessity to not just present them and let them stand as is; instead, the book realizes that a race ought to be more than just a write-up of a rules, that there is more to them. As such, the book explains the psychology and physiology of the wyrmtouched in commendable detail, as well as their culture. Note that this is not simply a section of background material – oh no! We do get notes on breath artistry duels (including the rules to supplement them!), a great narrative tool that makes sense on so many levels. I love it! From fashion to the relationship with magic to funerary customs, the book manages to present a truly encompassing and plausible, captivating portrayal of the race, with a sample community and even advice on adapting the race to your campaign provided! I was positively surprised in many ways by how well this whole section was presented.

The pdf includes a single race-exclusive archetype, the breath savant brawler, who needs to both have a breath weapon and a bite attack to select the archetype. In place of unarmed strike, these fellows increase the damage output of the breath weapon, as per its own table. EDIT: So, I read as a glitch what was intended design paradigm - the breath savant increases the base damage die of the breath weapon, and said increase may include multiple dice that function as a singular base damage die. This changes the tone of the archetype drastically and makes it solely suitable for higher-powered games - for my games, this'd be labeled over-powered and banned. HOWEVER, my initial reading that mistook base damage die increases of the breath weapon increase as the total actually makes for a super-easy way to retain the archetype even in lower-powered games without requiring design work by the GM.
The breath savant may decide to change damage type inflicted by the breath weapon via martial flexibility, and treats [breath] feats as combat feats for the purpose of the ability. Instead of brawler’s flurry, we have Unbound Breath Weapon (which allows you to use your breath weapon every other round and should have, imho, a minimum level such as 3rd or so – the archetype ignores prerequisites, so it’s weird that it gets the feat later, and unlimited breath with just one round of cooldown can be pretty potent) and Combat Breath Weapon (which lets you use the breath weapon as either part of an attack action, or as part of casting a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, with the latter requiring the expenditure of a swift action; this feat has a 5th-level prerequisite, so here, the prerequisite ignoring makes sense) as bonus feats at 2nd level, with 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter allowing for the addition of an additional melee attack at cumulative -3 penalties when taking the attack action. 4th level replaces maneuver training with Flowing Breath – this feat eliminates Unbound Breath Weapon’s one-round cooldown and is situated at 3rd level prerequisites; note that, since the base breath weapon has the one-minute cooldown as well, this applies to both Unbound and non-unbound weaponry, in the former case unlocking unlimited breath weapons as soon as 3rd level. The AC bonus is replaced with +1 natural armor that increases further at 9th, 13th and 18th level. Knockout is replaced with torrent breath, 1/day maximizing breath weapon and increasing DCs by +2, with an additional daily use gained at 9th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 5th, 9th, 12th and 17th level make the natural attacks count as specific materials (scaling makes sense) for the purpose of overcoming DRs, replacing brawler’s strike. Instead of close weapon mastery, we have a bite attack damage increase based on breath weapon. While I’m not happy with unlimited AoE-attacks here, the archetype is pretty neat and probably won’t break the game of groups that do not adhere to a low and very conservative power-level.

The pdf also contains 4 other archetypes that may be taken by any race, but are particularly suited for wyrmtouched. One of these is the dragon touched, originally intended for the Legendary Shifter – the pdf notes that it may be rather strong for the regular shifter, and I concur with the assessment, adding just my 2 cents: You should be using the superior and more fun Legendary Shifter anyways. ;P Kidding aside, this guy is pretty much what it says on the tin – a shifter archetype that focuses on assuming draconic forms, using complex variations of form of the dragon as a baseline.

The dragon champion vigilante modifies dual identity (retaining archetype compatibility) to instead have a draconic identity, with the archetype sporting a significant amount of different, exclusive vigilante talents that include a bite attack enhancer (which stacks with keen et al. – not a fan), an anti-dragon attack that works in conjunction with options from Asian Archetypes: Martial and Legendary Villains: Vigilantes, a Dazzling Display variant, a breath weapon (and another one for an upgrade), and wings (locked behind an appropriate minimum level). All in all, a nice one.

The scaled scion is a magus archetype, who gains an arcanist’s spellcasting, governed by Charisma (making it work in conjunction with the Legendary Magus), and the armor proficiency abilities are replaced with natural armor bonus and resistance, as governed by energy resistance. The final archetype would be the wyrm researcher alchemist, who alters mutagen to instead provide natural armor and energy resistance corresponding to the character’s associated dragon bloodline; the character has a reduced bomb damage, and instead of 2nd level’s discovery, we get claws, with 6th level gaining wings sans duration while under the mutagen. Minor nitpick: Here is an erroneous reference to feral mutagen instead of wyrm heart. 8th level provides the means to choose two unique discoveries (for bomb/breath admixture), and poison immunity is replaced with wing attacks and 18th level nets immunity to the chosen element instead of poison.

The pdf provides a rather massive feat chapter, with aforementioned [Breath] feats allowing for various modifications of the base engine, often at the cost of base damage die of breath weapons – we can find e.g. the addition of negative conditions of breath weapons. Cool: One of the alternate racial traits nets you blindsense 5 ft. – with a feat, you can close your eyes and extend that range. It’s so simple, but I love the visuals. Breath Weapon Admixture is obvious in what it does; Breath Weapon Artisan allows the character to modify the breath weapon to change the area of effect of the breath weapon. Lacing weapons with breath weapon energy, excluding spaces from it, gaining minor DR, a climb speed, no longer requiring a free hand for spell combat – quite a lot of options here. Particularly notable: Drake Style not only has 2 feats based on it, but 5! The base Drake Style allows for wall-running (awesome) with a variant of attacking during the movement. The follow-up feats allow for the use of Drake Style in conjunction with living creatures, and you can catapult off of objects to further increase heights; higher levels allow for the addition of penalized attacks, etc. - Cool style!!

The chapter also includes a Vital Strike/bite synergy, for example – but there is more: The book has a whole sub-chapter devoted to legendary drakes – basically a companion engine for drakes. These guys only have head, headband, eyes, shoulder, neck, body, chest and 2 ring slots and do NOT count as animal companions. If they die, you do NOT gain a replacement. It takes years to gain a drake’s trust, thus making this a companion you do not want to throw into the meatgrinder.

The legendary drake companion requires a two-feat investment, with the first being a lame skill-enhancer that nets you a language and a better starting attitude for draconic beings. Their power is further capped by requiring additional feats to progress towards certain HD-caps. Legendary drakes have ¾ HD-progression (capped by the feat-based limits), ¾ BAB-progression, all saves progress to +9 over the 20 levels, and the companion has d12 HD. Skill ranks start as 3, and increase to 60 at 20th level. The companion begins with a feat and gains up to 8 feats over the course of the companion progression.

The drake companion begins play with darkvision and low-light vision, as well as immunity to sleep and paralysis effects. The drake increases natural AC by +2 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, and ability score increases happen at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 6th, 13th and 20th level net a size increase. At 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter, the legendary drake gets to choose a drake power from a massive list. Here, we can find aligned damage, breathing in water, breath weaponry and further power-upgrades thereof, swim speed, climb speed, etc. The selection also features a variety of asterisk’d powers that modify the bite attack of the drake. Only one of these may be applied per bite, and yes, there is a feat that lets the drake choose an extra drake power. There are variant rules provided for agile drakes, better armored ones, and construct and undead drakes, with the latter two thankfully taking some serious hits regarding their base stats to account for the immunities and powers bestowed by their states. Serving as a mount does btw. require a drake power, and the pdf does include, aptly, a magic saddle for drake riders. The reduction harness is an all but required item, as it allows you to take your drake, you know, actually with you into that dungeon? Considering the steep penalty for losing a drake, a kind of drake extra life, the drake heart is certainly an item you should purchase/craft, and finally, there would be two iterations of drake’s crests which grant access to drake powers.

The pdf closes with Ti’ri Karn, a wyrmtouched brawler (breath savant) 5, who is unique – a wyrmtouched in her prime, living with humans has taught her the fragility of life and made her almost feels like a benevolent grandparent, a funny and pretty cool contrast to artwork and racial stereotypes. Her boon also highlights this, as she provides long-term care for friends and their animals alike.

Part II of my review can be found here!


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*****

This Ship-supplement clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, first things first: We actually get two ships herein: They are represented by the same artwork, which is represented in both paper-mini-versions and as a massive one-page artwork, and we get filled-out spaceship-sheets for both of them.

The regular Katar gunship is a tier ½ Small shuttle with common crew quarters, a basic computer and budget short-range sensors. Powered by an arcus light power core and equipped with basic 10 shields, the vessel is armed with a gyrolaser and surprisingly neat mk 4 armor and defenses. Expansion bay-wise, we have cargo holds.

The heavy gunship also has common crew quarters, a basic computer and budget short-range sensors, and it is powered by an arcus light power core. At tier 1, it does have better shields (basic 20), and the same mk 4 armor and defenses as the base model. The main difference is within the offensive capabilities, with a light torpedo launcher on port and starboard side joining the forward facing gyrolaser.

Both ships get their own, proper Computers-table that helps your PCs determine how much they know about the ships in question. Both ships each get their own brief flavor text that notes how many troops/cargo may be transported, including e.g. how many folks in powered armor (erroneously referred to as “power armor” in one of the most common hiccups in SFRPG) – nice, and cool to see this going the extra mile!

Speaking of which: In spite of the vessels’ relatively small sizes, we do get a rather detailed full-color map of the ship-type, which really made me smile. The map is really great – you can see the details on the pilot’s nav-screen!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – both ships check out mechanically, in case you were wondering. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Getting a full-color artwork, handout and full-color map? Awesome.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan provide a neat little pdf here – one that goes one step beyond. Convenient, well-wrought, and fun, this is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This massive campaign setting/supplement clocks in at 258 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 252 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first of all, it’s pretty evident that, with a book of this size, a detailed analysis of every piece of mechanical content within would bloat this review beyond any utility (and probably drive me stark, raving bonkers), so please be aware that I’m interested in the big picture regarding this game/supplement.

So, Bloodlines & Black Magic isn’t simply a campaign setting for PFPRG – it is, in the parlance of old-school games, a so-called “hack”; i.e. a heavy modification of the base engine and its assumptions. The requirement of these heavy modifications is predicated on the setting, which assumes our own modern world, as seen through a glass darkly. Setting and rules are entwined in this game/setting to a degree that is rarely seen, and no concept encompasses this notion more than the underlying “O7”, Occult 7 assumption. Bloodlines and Black Magic assumes a maximum character level for the PCs of 7th, building on the tradition of E6-based games that began to spring up during the heyday of the d20-era.

This obviously has a couple of mechanic repercussions; for one, it means that the game takes place exclusively within the frame of what most people consider to be the “sweet spot” of PFRPG, i.e. where the math and rules work best. Important to note, though, would be the fact that this cap does not apply to adversaries and supernatural beings, which means that the playing experience remains one of danger throughout. The emphasis of the game is centered more on a narrative angle, and on the use of brains over brawn. This change of focus is also represented in a variety of different assumptions regarding the game itself – for example, the book explicitly states that the vast majority of humans in the world only are 1st level commoners or experts, establishing a generally low power-level. Similarly, the game focuses not on grinding for XP – every encounter is supposed to have meaningful repercussions, and in a world, where many of us are time-starved, I most certainly can get behind this general notion. This also means that prep-time for the GM remains pretty manageable – and if you’re like me and had to redesign a whole AP’s monsters time and again to make them challenging for your players and PCs, you’ll most assuredly appreciate this.

Rules-wise, there is progression beyond 7th level – when you’d attain the 8th level, you’d get a bonus feat or the option to a class feature, though such features must be taken in sequential order that you’d usually gain them. These changes of durability obviously require some knowledge from the GM, but thankfully, the book does contain an assortment of different pieces of advice regarding the implementation of the rules within, which e.g. also extend to how magic items are handled, feasible caps for gold and CRs and the like. With “only” 7 levels of play, level 1 – 2 are called “novice”, 3-4 expert, 5-6 “veteran” and level 7…? Well, these are legends.

Character base power-level assumes either 4d6, rolled 6 times, dropping the lowest result, or point-buy, which ranges from 10m to 14 and 21. Ability scores cap at 19 at the start of the game, and at 21 later – this is the maximum your character can attain. Ability score increases are awarded at 3rd and 7th level.

So that would be the mechanical foundation – but you’re probably asking yourself at this point where the whole “occult” angle comes into play. Well, let me get to that: You see, the assumption of the setting is pretty classic, in that it assumes a hidden, magical reality. Our perceived subjective reality is deemed to be an illusion, one crafted by the so-called Archons – who are basically the supernatural masters of the world. These individuals are NOT kind, they are NOT caring, and they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. They rule via essentially institutionalized and culturally perpetuated control mechanisms, and as such, a selection of global elites act as potential agents for the agenda of Archons, willing or ignorant. The notion of elites controlling the world is very much real herein. The Archons have instigated the current order in part as a response to the Goetic Spirits from Christian mythology, which, while mostly banished from the civilized and established order of the Archon’s society, these spirits still retain their power, and haunt the natural world, allowing you to potentially explore the notions of civilization vs. nature on a supernatural level. These entities are also not benevolent, in case you were wondering.

The inability of most humans to perceive the truth is based on the “Veil” – if that reminded you of Pelgrane Press’ excellent Ocean Game settings, you’d be partially correct. The Veil establishes a combination of mundane and supernatural membrane of sorts; the combination of talent and cultural conditioning in association with very real power simply makes a majority of supernatural occurrences not something that may be properly processed – at least not without being deemed as insane by the current cultural paradigm. In a way, this makes Bloodlines and Black magic more plausible to me than Ocean Game, for the setting’s core tenets do assume that, you know, the majority of people and their world-view shape what is deemed to be “truth” regarding a world, its laws and what may or may not happen. With magic potentially eliminating the cold and hard facts of reliable empirical evidence, the notion of the supernatural becomes essentially impossible to prove or disprove, and even the notion of its existence becomes fraught with peril.

This is a leitmotif of sorts, for while most characters receive the Pierce the Veil feat at 1st level, which allows them to see this world’s equivalent of the Real, or at least a higher-level symbolic order in terms of Lacanian psychosemiotics, this is not a trait shared by the common populace – and as such, the explanation of the maintenance of ignorance and Veil is ultimately very plausible without requiring elaborate conspiracies to maintain: There is no competence required by a shadowy cabal, as the conventionalized and preconceived notions of reality act as a control mechanism in and of themselves. This is, as far as I’m concerned, an incredibly clever way of dealing with the very concept underlying the book…and, in a clever further take, this, as most scholars will know, is also something that pretty much represents the notions of pretty much every occult world-view perpetuated throughout the ages: the hidden world, and how it is closer to a divine “truth” that helps transcending the limits of mortality and our day to day condition humana.

Those would be central leitmotifs, and at this point, you probably do get what this book is about; to dive more into the respective details:

Bloodlines and Black Magic has a smart trait system, with each trait representing the type of awakening to the truth of the world, and each of them has been associated with one of the tarot deck’s arcana, once more tying mechanics to in-and out-game practice – you can literally “draw” your trait, if you’re so inclined. These also are studded with actual flavor that serves to further underline the depth and integrity of the subject matter. “What is the smell of the number 7, or the taste of the color orange, or the wisdom in the hummingbird’s song? You saw some sliver of this enlightenment…” to quote one of the different flavor-texts. Much to my pleasure, the rules-integrity of these traits is pretty impressive, using untyped bonuses only in instances where highly circumstantial applications make stacking very much intentional, and otherwise, with pinpoint precision, choosing bonus types rather well. Okay, there is one instance of a capitalized “Dodge” in a “dodge bonus”, but other than that, this is a pretty impressive engine tweak that serves to cohesively highlight the distinct nature of the game.

The game also knows a threshold score – a value that reflects how well the PC can cope with supernatural weirdness. If the Cr or spell level is equal to or less than your level, you can seamlessly process it as part of your reality; anything higher requires a so-called Paradigm check, a Will save vs. DC 10 + level or CR + situational modifiers. Failing this check sees a paradigm shift in the world-view of the character, and this is more than just a type of sanity; since the “sane” world is an arbitrarily-defined and contextualized concept, perception or reality and indeed, how the world interacts with the character, may be influenced. This is, in short, a kind of Entfremdung (estrangement) from the natural order that may manifest in a plethora of different and exciting ways that can range from the paranoia-inducing to the wondrous, but weird. The fact that the book chooses to go this way is exceedingly smart, as it sets the game apart from all other sanity-based systems, instead proposing a world-view once more in line with several Gnostic models. A failure in a Paradigm check also nets you Paradigm Points. Resting 8 hours lets you reduce these by up to character level, and whenever Paradigm points reach a total of threshold times 5,m the maximum threshold increases by 1, resets to 0 and at every odd threshold score, you gain an oddity – a semi-supernatural effect that represents one of the positive results stemming from estrangement from the perceived and conventionalized reality – like being loved by birds, having tattoos seemingly move once in a while and the like. In a way, this score could be seen as a dual representation of how far you may see beyond the conventionalized reality, but also as a means to determine how estranged from the lived in world of a majority of the populace you have become. In short: It is very clever.

In the absence of fantastic races, the eponymous bloodlines take the place of what we usually would associate with racial features. 7 such bloodlines are provided, and they adheres to the usual +2/+2 to an ability score paradigm. While there are instances here where bloodlines tend to be e.g. more suitable for certain classes (due to e.g. a focus on two boosts to ability scores), the changed paradigms resulting from O7-gameplay and the lack of escalation regarding stats actually mean that these lopsided racial traits matter less and thus are exempt, for once, from my usual derision regarding such a focus. The book also does not present a unified race for each bloodline, instead opting to provide a BP-budget (7, of course!) that you can spend for individualized racial abilities granted by your magical bloodline. It should also be noted that trauma, saving a life and the like may all result, in a way, in you exhibiting a bloodline or activating your latent powers. It should also be noted that this section mentions magical diseases that affect said bloodlines…

But how does that work with weirdos curing wounds left and right? It doesn’t. Bloodlines and Black Magic does something I’m a huge fan of – it limits the available character classes to prevent a sense of suspension of disbelief-breaking assumptions implicit in many classes. The 7 classes available for play are brawler, investigator, mesmerist, occultist, psychic, slayer and spiritualist. These choices, to me, are smart, and modified class tables for the classes are provided, with all the relevant features – you don’t need e.g. ACG or Occult Adventures to make use of this game. Skills have also been expanded and adapted, with Computers, Craft (chemicals) (which includes rules to make drugs, explosives and poisons and the like),l Craft (electronics) or Craft (mechanical) tightly codified. Street replaces Knowledge (local) and Knowledge skills have been tightly redefined. Drive, obviously, also is included.

A crucial difference in Bloodlines and Black Magic would btw. be that e.g. learning about how guns are used actually reduces your nonproficiency penalty – the system allows for the learning of skills and character growth via roleplaying as a hard-coded components of its intrinsic assumptions – something I wholeheartedly applaud. Beyond the race and class, a character in Bloodlines and Black Magic has a career, distinguishing between 6 general career groups, and denoting salary by one of 4 tiers within the respective career – PCs are assumed to range in the 1 – 3 tier region, but the table does note the tier 4 information as well. These come with monthly income modifiers, associated skill groups and a selection of talents grouped by tier, which represent a meaningful second array of character features – almost like you had gestalted lite. Each career also has associated ability score modifiers, in case you were wondering. There also are non-path careers, which are more suitable for NPCs or as secondary careers – these only have 1 tier.

The chapter that deals with feats not only presents a massive amount, it also clearly places the control in the hands of the GM, but also provides guidelines for the players, emphasizing once more conceptual and setting integrity over the sheer mechanical aspects of the game. Some feats, like Improved Dodge, just list their modified prerequisites. And you’ll love your dodge bonuses, for Bloodlines and Black Magic does not assume there to be a wide availability and use of armors, instead focusing on what we would consider a more “!realistic” approach. Drawbacks and flaws are also ingrained within the system, and the book champions something I very much enjoyed, namely degrees of proficiency with regards to language – it takes 3 ranks to truly master a language, getting rid of one of the most aggravating aspects of core PFRPG.

Of course, a modern context also requires a proper gear-chapter, which include covering fire, burst fire, automatic fire, spray and pray attacks, aiming and easy to implement recoil mechanics. While guns are great and all…they once more interact with the core assumptions of the game in unique ways: If you can Pierce the Veil, you also become known to the respective entities, and gunsmoke-blessed creatures, which are immune to firearms, may well be attracted to characters under the delusion of being Rambo or Ahnooold. This is not a game of mowing down legions of mooks.

Armor, in case you were wondering, does btw. have a DR and a damage total they can absorb before requiring repair/replacement – this is clever, in that it helps well-equipped teams to prepare – it emphasizes brains over brawn, preparation and smarts and legwork over murder-hoboing.

Magic btw. is influenced by potent sites and holy days, and in-game, there are 7 occult schools (with traditional spell schools noted in brackets) – and magic must be handled carefully. The base assumption is that, normal people just snap when confronted with irrefutable proof of magic. Lobbing that fireball in the crowd? It’ll seriously frenzy the targets, as their worldview can’t cope properly, making your situation much more dire. Once more, the application of magic isn’t nerfed explicitly, it instead uses implicit restrictions that reward engaging with the setting within the internal logic it presents, while punishing behavior that would contradict the internal assumptions. It does so in a way, though, that is very much not punitive, but rather an extension of risk-.reward ratio calculations that PCs and NPCs both need to be aware of. Spells include means to broadcast visions, glitch mechanical or technological items, and with sing the tenfold song of essential names, the target is forced to sing the names of their ancestors, in the process revealing their true name… Speak with the soul of the city allows you to contact the genius loci of a city and ask it questions, and rituals are handled with the much-beloved incantation-engine, which folks will know from Kobold Press, zombie Sky Press, Storm Bunny Studios, Drop Dead Studios, etc.. A couple of cantrips for pseudo-awakened commoners are also included.

Annie Oakley’s Silver, Cortana, the shortsword of Ogier the Dane, the cards of Crowley – the book contextualizes magic items and implements and the like in a way that makes them


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This massive supplement clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 91 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.

Okay, so the tl;dr-version of this book would be that it’s Kingdom-building for Starfinder; as such, the supplement includes army, colony and empire record sheets in the back – nice to see them included!

Okay, so, regarding terminology: A Sector is a significant area, which should be at least a 12-mile diameter hexagon; a District is a region, neighborhood, etc. – a Sector can contain up to 100 Districts. A Colony is pretty much that – it can be a village, a metropolis, etc. – it must contain at least one District; for every District beyond the first, the Consumption increases by 1 BP. A District can also hold up to 36 Modules – this is the smallest size that something that has a serious impact oin society can have; it could be a home, a specialized planetoid, etc.

Time is measured in Turns – each of these roughly equates to one month. A Moment usually represents one day; both of these are not cast in stone, though – it is perfectly possible to engage in empire-building over centuries. A Turn contains 30 of these Moments.

Every empire has four stats – Economy, Loyalty, Stability and Unrest; these are also the basis for the respective checks – roll a d20, add the respective stat, done. As before, BP is the measure of abstract resources; BP are paid on a Turn-basis, as denoted by consumption, and the Control DC of an Empire action or situation has a basis of 20 + Size in Sectors + total number of Districts in all Colonies + special modifiers. Population is abstract, and Size represents the number of Sectors an empire has – a new one has a Size of 1. Treasury denoted the amount of BP the empire may access, and dipping into the negatives there increases unrest.

We begin with choosing an ethos (which is opposed by another) – these increase either Loyalty or Economy by +2. This ethos may be changed by leaders during the Edict Phase, and slots left open net a bonus to Stability instead. Minor nitpick: This erroneously refers to Ethos as trait once, which confused me for a second.

A leader has a Rulership Bonus (RB) that starts at 0 and increases by +1 for every 6 levels, for every 5 ranks in a relevant skill, for having an appropriate feat, or for having an exceptional (+3 or greater) ability score bonus in the relevant ability score. The leader positions are ruler, ambassador, chief justice, chief technologist, general, head of security, high priest, magister, space warden, speaker, spymaster and treasurer. Optional roles included are consort, successor and viceroy. As before, vacancy penalties are included.

An empire’s Turn sequence is as follows: Pase 1 is the Upkeep Phase – you make a Stability check, and on a success, you decrease Unrest by 1 – if your Unrest would be decreased below 0, you gain 1 BP.; on a failure of less than 5, you increase Unrest by 1; if you fail by 5 or more, you instead increase Unrest by 1d4. Then, you subtract Consumption from the treasury; if treasury becomes negative, you increase Unrest by 2. Unrest also increases by 1 for every Empire attribute that is negative. The Enforcer, if present, may attempt to reduce Unrest during this step. Having an Unrest of 11 or more makes the empire lose one Sector.ö Unrest of 20 means you fall into Collapse, which prevents taking actions and makes all Empire attributes behave as though they were 0.

Phase 2 is the Edict Phase . vacant leadership positions are assigned, and Sectors are claimed. A Sector must be adjacent to at least one other Sector. The Sector to be claimed must be explored, cleared of monsters or hazards; thereafter, you spend 1 BP to claim the Sector. You may also abandon Sectors to reduce Empire Size, but this does increase Unrest by 1 for every Sector abandoned, by 4 if the Sector contained a Colony. In a claimed Sector, you can prepare the construction of a Colony, which requires paying the Preparation Cost. You can construct Infrastructure in your Colonies, which apply benefits to the empire. Then, you issue edicts.

During Phase 3, the Income Phase, you can spend credits to increase BP, collect taxes (determined by taxation edicts) – this Phase deals with filling your treasury. Phase 4, the Event Phase, has a 25% chance of an event occurring; if no event occurred during the previous Turn, this chance rises to 75%. So, that’s the basic Turn-sequence.

Edicts fall into several categories: Expansion edicts, armament edicts, holiday edicts, improvement edicts, recruitment edicts and taxation edicts. These are generally self-explanatory and feature their own tables, though recruitment deserves special mention – It is based on a Loyalty check, with the CR (Army Challenge Rating) capping at a Colony’s Capability score.

This brings me to Colonies – these have an alignment, and 5 attributes: Capability, Culture, Defense, Law and Supply. These are generally equal to the colony’s level, but are modified by forms of government (8 provided) and infrastructure. Colony-levels are determined by the amount of BP invested in them, with a handy table provided. Speaking of whioch: I already touched upon founding a colony, and indeed, proper time-frames for exploration, preparation, etc. are provided by region – establishing a Colony in the void of space requires less exploration, but is BP-wise more costly to prepare for than, say, doing the same in wetlands. Farm, Road and Mine costs are provided, and beyond the topography, the richness of the respective biome and the atmosphere also impact costs and behavior of the Colony. This sounds complex, but once you’ve grasped it, is a pretty smooth process.

Special terrain features like ruins, free colonies and the like are included in the engine as well. The pdf then proceeds to go through the vast amount of types of infrastructure you can generate, with higher levels in each category costing more BP and more modules. Each such type of infrastructure also presents a category boon for the Colony. The system is simple and easy to grasp. The events follow a similar paradigm, differentiating between empire and colony events that could affect a Sector, a Colony, and some of them, like Plagues, may remain continuous until dealt with.

The basic system is cleanly and tightly presented, but if you’re like me, you may want more out of this book – and it gladly obliges, providing a serious set of advanced rules. Colony size modifier based on Empire Size, Commission edicts, diplomatic relationships (which become harder, the more different the ethos of the parties is from one another) include treaties, alliances, embassies and the like – all covered. Endowment edicts allows for a focus on art and learning, sponsoring certain infrastructures; espionage and exploration – you get the idea.

An empire also starts with fame or infamy 1 (ruler’s choice) and every level 3 or 4 infrastructure increases fame or infamy by 1; a level 5 infrastructure instead increases your choice of either by 2. At certain Size thresholds, these values also increase. For every 10 points accrued, your citizens gain a Diplomacy or Intimidate bonus. Festival edicts take place in a specific Colony, and are concisely defined – as is a suggested array of XP-gains for leadership. Declaring Independence and Unification are also found.

Trade deserves special mention: Establishing a trade route increases your BP every Turn. In order to deal with these, you add together the Moments of exploration you require for a trade route – the total is the Trade Route length (TRL); divided by 10, this is the RM (Route Modifier); TRL minus empire’s Size to get the Length Modifier (LM). Establishing a route takes 1 Turn, and establishing one costs at least 5 BP. The first time a colony is reached thus, you must make an Economy, Loyalty and Stability check, with the DC equal to Control DC + RM +LM – BP spent provisioning the expedition. 2 success are required to establish the route; 3 fails = total failure, 3 successes a grand success. A Trade Route provides its benefits for 10 Turns, and deals with Food, Goods, or Raw Materials.

Rules for vassal states are also provided, just fyi. Handling empire expansion and encounters is covered, and topography generators and random means to quickly establish empires and colonies may also be found. Several sample empires are provided.

The book also deals with warfare. ;V, RV, DV, Morale – the system operates smoothly and analogue to PFRPG’s rules. Army sizes range from 1 – 10, are abstract, and have a number of divisions based on size, Hit Points based on size, and the ACR is determined by the CR of constituent creatures. The mass combat rules follow a similar, classic paradigm, with abstract battle zones featured – we have a camp zone, a command zone, a ranged zone and a melee zone. We have overall strategies and 5 battle phases – Recon, Tactical, Gunnery, Melee and Rout phase. Bloodied (below half HP), Defeated (0 HP), Destroyed and Disbanded (0 Morale, failed Loyalty check) are provided. Costs for army equipment are grouped by tier, with costs provided and a serious array of different tactics provided. The supplement also accounts for the talents of special commanders, and a massive array of boons included. Some of these are permanent – they are designated with a (P), but t5ehre also are ones designated with a (A) – this is not properly explained, but I’m pretty sure that this only applies to a single army. I may be wrong, though. Cool: The engine has accounted for SFRPG’s critical effects in the serious list of special abilities available, and from envoy improvisations to technomancer hacks, there are quite a few cool options here.

Extended time in the field, covering travel, living off the land, battlefield terrains and the like – a metric ton of awesome material here! The book also contains a massive amount of sample armies for your convenience.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level (minor note, for example: The colony record sheet erroneously refers to modules as “lots”) and on a rules language level. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard, and the book offers quite an array of nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the sheets are also included as separate pdfs.

Matt Daley and Jason Nelson deliver big time here – this is the inspired means to weave truly grand narratives among the stars. While the starship/mass combat synergy has been relegated to another supplement, this is still one amazing, glorious supplement. There are a few instances where e.g. stating explicitly that, if not noted, an infrastructure takes up one module would have been nice, and the (A) hiccup noted similarly could have used explicit mentioning. That out of the way, these are ultimately nitpicks in a truly inspired, amazing supplement – if you liked kingdom-building. If you didn’t like the system, then this will obviously not convert you, but as far as I’m concerned, it is amazing to see this book so soon in SFRPG’s life-cycle! For me as a person, this is a truly grand and fun offering – my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, and this does receive my EZG Essentials-tag for SFRPG-campaigns that seek to tell sweeping stories of empires and civilizations rising and falling in the vastness of space; as such, it also is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 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.

All right, we begin pretty much immediately with the class-redesign, the legendary magus. The legendary magus gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as with light AND medium armors, with no spellcasting failure from the get-go. The legendary magus remains a prepared spellcaster with spellcasting governed by Intelligence and the magus-spell-list. A legendary magus may spontaneously apply metamagic feats to spells cast, with the casting time increase you’d associate with the sorcerer. HOWEVER, the legendary magus may ALSO prepare spells with metamagic feats in advance, as usual for prepared spellcasters. This is a genuinely interesting tweak from the get-go, one that makes metamagic feats much more compelling for the class. It should also be noted that the casting process of the legendary magus is akin to the arcanist – prepared spells, spontaneous casting. Spells prepared day, as before, at 5, but the tweaked spellcasting engine necessitates a spells prepared addition to the table, which caps out at 6 on each level save 5th and 6th, where 5 spells prepared represent the cap.

The class gets a codified “eldritch tome” as a kind of special spellbook, and the book has half the magus’ hit points. If destroyed, it reappears among the magus’ possessions on the next dawn. It doubles as the spellbook, but also grants a linear ability progression – more on that later. The class begins play with Arcane Strike as a bonus feat, and may activate it as a free action, but only at the beginning of her turn. At 3rd level, Riving Strike is granted as a bonus feat and Arcane Strike used in conjunction with the Vital Strike feat-chain multiplies the Arcane Strike damage by the number of times the Vital Strike chain makes her roll damage dice. This thankfully does not stack with other Arcane Strike multiplying abilities.

The class gets ¾ BAB-progression and good Will-saves. It should be noted that something has gone horribly wrong in the Fort-save column of the class, with several entries being obviously incorrect – unless the save is supposed to actually decrease and increase time and again, I suggest instead looking at the Reflex-save column.

At 1st level, the legendary magus gets arcane potential – the ability to harness residual energy of spells she has cast. The magus starts the day with no potential, but gains potential when she casts a magus spell, whenever she begins the round under the effects of a magus spell of 1st level or higher (the spell needs to affect her, not her gear), and whenever the legendary magus takes damage from a spell or spell-like ability or has to make a saving throw against a harmful spell or spell-like ability. The latter spell/SP-related components yields 2 potential instead of one. Potential caps at Intelligence modifier, minimum 1, and maximum potential increases at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter by +1. Potential may only be gained in combat, which made me sigh, only to be happy soon thereafter. Two reasons for that: 1) It is lost if you spend more than one minute outside of combat and 2), the pdf explicitly provides a sidebar that disallows the exploits this would otherwise allow for. As a minor nitpick: I do believe that cantrips should be disqualified for providing arcane potential, which they RAW are only for the buffing caveat (nice!) – when a cantrip prompts a save, though, the legendary magus can still earn a hefty two points. Minor nitpick, though, as the obvious exploit’s been taken care of.

Said potential can be employed in a variety of ways, and, unless otherwise noted, can be used as a free action, but no more than once per round per potential technique. At 1st level, we have the means to, as an immediate action, grant a +1 circumstance bonus to AC to the magus or an adjacent ally. Somewhat weird: While this is listed as costing 1 potential, it seems to imply the option to pay with more potential for greater bonuses to AC. I assume this to be no glitch, design-wise, but explicitly stating such would have been preferable. The second option takes a swift action and bestows a +4 bonus to concentration checks against being injured by a specific target creature and for casting in said creature’s threatened area. Thirdly, there is the means to pay 1 potential to gain +1 to atk and damage until the start of the next turn. For 2 potential, the magus may, as part of a move, withdraw or charge, step through space for up to 10 feet per 2 potential spent to a location within line of sight – this is a teleportation and as such, ignores obstacles and similar things, and charge targets may be determined after the teleport. This is a favorite of mine, as it makes the legendary magus a capable, though not overbearing skirmisher from the get-go. The second 2-potential option allows the legendary magus to enhance Arcane Strike with a +1d4 bonus damage of its usual damage type until the start of the magus’ next turn, which increases by a further +1d4 per 5 class levels attained. These bonus dice are multiplied in conjunction with Vital Strike’s feat-chain according to the same guidelines that apply to Arcane Strike as mentioned before.

8th level unlocks a second array of arcane potential-based techniques. For 1 potential, we have the option to fluidly change the core energy type damage inflicted, and the means to enhance touch AC and saving throws versus spells. For 2 potential, we have the means to spontaneously apply metamagic sans casting time increase (the ability header isn’t properly bolded here). The second 2-potential ability allows for the modulation of a magus spells’ range, and there is the means to execute spell combat as a standard action. For 3 potential, we have the means to create an arcane 5 ft. by 5 ft. barrier, granting cover. This reminded me of one particular archetype by Jason Linker I rather liked. Secondly, as a swift action, we have the means to flicker to any adjacent square for the purpose of originating attacks and effects. Interesting.

Spell combat’s verbiage now lacks the TWFing reference, and the ability is now employed for one-handed weapons exclusively, removing the potential clusterf*** that two-handed light weapons could create with the whole engine set-up. 4th level nets Combat Casting, and 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter a bonus feat, to be chosen from combat, item creation and metamagic feats. At 7th level, magi no longer provoke AoOs when casting 1st level magus spells, and ability that extends one spell level farther at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter – this is smart, as it generates a motivation to keep casting lower-level spells. Additionally, the magus is treated as a fighter – 4 levels for the purpose of prerequisites. 7th level nets spell recall, which is now powered by arcane potential, costing 3 potential per spell level, and the ability notes that recalls can’t be chained, and that such recalled spells do not generate potential – a crucial balancing component here. 16th level decreases the cost this ability has to twice the spell’s level in potential. The capstone allows for the use of spell combat as a standard action (which makes the rapid spell combat ability somewhat obsolete), and combine that with full attacks that are accompanied by one of 4 different short-term buffs.

Now, I previously noted the eldritch tome as a source of a linear ability progression, and indeed, each type of eldritch tome provides a total of 4 abilities over the class’s progression: At 1st, 3rd, 9th and 15th level, new abilities are unlocked. 8 such tomes are provided. In all brevity: The tome of the bulwark nets shield proficiency, the ability to store spells in shields and deliver them with e.g. a shield bash, applies shield bonus to touch AC and grants it to adjacent allies and at the highest level, extends the effects in a small radius beyond her immediate range. This one also has the ability to intercept attacks. The tome of the deadeye would be the ranged option – the interesting component here would be that the like would be ridiculously OP for a regular magus. This one allows for the substitution of ranged weapon range for spell range, after all. However, in the context of the legendary magus, while clocking it at one of the more potent options, it does remain within the parameters. Why? Well, in case you haven’t noticed it: The legendary magus got rid of frickin’ spellstrike in favor of actually useful and flexible combat options. That is a huge plus for me, as it liberates the class from its niche of fishing for potent critical hits. The book also does something right, in that it rewards the use of e.g. crossbows and the like with faster reload speeds, meaning that there, for once, is not a penalty for choosing them as your preferred weapon. On the downside, I am not a big fan of the means to expend spells for bonus damage that just flat-out ignores DR – this should imho scale through the DR-types by level.

The tome of the duelist allows for the use of Dexterity to calculate atk, and Intelligence to calculate damage, and it receives a defensive option for spell combat that grants concealment, including the means to execute counter-attacks sourced from AoOs. Cool! The tome of the Gemini is all about TWFing, while the tome of the juggernaut would be the two-handed weapon option that also enhances charges and concentration. The tome of the magister may be, as a physical object, be used as a kind of shield and also bestows limited access to sorcerer/wizard spells. The idea here is the weaponized book, including means to use it for shield bashes and the like – interesting. The tome of the pugilist is, unsurprisingly given the name, the unarmed combat option, including a spell combat/flurry combo and immediate action counters and bonus damage at higher levels. The speardancer’s tome is another two-handed weapon specialist ability array, but one that focuses on Lunge, Whirlwind Attack and similar soft crowd control options. Like this one particularly, considering that arcane potential enhances skirmishing capabilities pretty much from the get-go.

Now, 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a magus arcana, of which there are more than 50 presented. I *assume* that these adhere to the usual arcana rules, for, in a somewhat glaring oversight, the summary of class abilities fails to list the base engine of arcana…but then again, that text doesn’t offer too much anyway. Still, it made me confused for a second, and considering the fact that third level of the class table double-lists the magus arcana class feature and the table’s error in the Fort-save column, this kinda made me a bit anxious. For the purpose of this review, I am going to assume that 3rd level nets only one magus arcana.

So, first thing you’ll notice: There is a metric ton of them: From additional potential to ignoring load and gaining new potential techniques, the arcana SUDDENLY MATTER. Picture me raising my fists to the sky in glorious triumph there. I’m serious – of all the Paizo classes, I’d be hard-pressed to mention one that has talent-like abilities as boring and utterly bland as magus arcana, and the options herein thankfully seem to be cognizant of that fact and hell-bent on doing a better job. The load-based one lets you treat your Strength as higher; we have the means to gain heavy armor proficiency sans spell failure, a 3-potential bane, the option to blink weapons back when using Arcane Strike to throw them, multiclass synergy for the purpose of potential (locked behind an appropriate level cap), AoOs versus defensive casters (further enhancing the skirmishing angle) and more – and I’Ve only touched upon all there is herein. From vigilante social talents to limited spell-conversion, we have quite a few really cool and flavorful tricks. Some arcana also have the (blade)-tag, of which only one may be applied per round, and these include, among other things, lacing the weapon with elemental force. Personally, I do think that the ability that nets access to a 1st level tome ability should be locked behind at least 9th level, considering how the tomes, while not necessarily super-potent, allow for some serious et-up potential for combo-builds, but that may be me.

From a familiar to Gunsmithing and firearm proficiency to casting while transformed/polymorphed to using class level for CMB/CMD, there are a ton of options. Also nice: The class comes with 7 favored class options available for ALL races. These all are valid options and are in line regarding power.

Okay, let me say that clearly: I LOVE THIS CLASS. Its formal flaws notwithstanding the legendary magus is a vast improvement in flexibility over the base class. While I can probably out-DPR the legendary magus with its regular fellow, this class instead rewards you for doing something else each round, and it is useful in more contexts than singular, devastating attacks. This is a much more rewarding and modular playing experience, both regarding spellcasting, martial angle and the synergies thereof.

As a special treat for fans of Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might, we do receive a sidebar for use with these two sub-systems. Considering how the legendary magus radically changed the assumptions of the base class, how do the archetypes fare? Well, the Blade of Legend doesn’t get the lingering means of generating arcane potential and is locked out of a familiar, but the black blade receives its own potential pool that may be used to power its own scaling array of abilities. It’s obviously still sentient and has its own class table. The coiled viper is a Spheres of Might crossover archetype that features its own martial tradition as well as status as a Proficient practitioner using Intelligence as practitioner modifier, though this does strip them of the arcana at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter, as well as the bonus feats at 8th and 14th level. They employ Toxin talents and may add alchemy-sphere poisons alongside spells, replacing the Arcana Strike ability suite. As poisonous whip specialists, they replace the tomes with a unique ability array, that combines soft crowd control with quick attacks; the capstone is also modified. The dragon fang gains enhanced skills and uses Charisma as the governing spellcasting ability score, with tomes being partially replaced with dragon apotheosis abilities that include a scaling, potential-based breath weapon and wings locked behin an appropriate level cap – basically the dragon-sorcerer archetype.

The drakeguard has a diminished spellcasting and replace spell combat with a drake companion; the tome is replaced with a custom ability suite that allows for potential technique sharing, including the means to split spell duration between herself and her steed, for example. Minor nitpick: In this and the previous archetype, there was an ability each that had its name not properly bolded. The First Magus has a bit of a druid-y vibe, including the option to call down lightning bolts on nearby targets. Something in layout or formatting has gone seriously wrong with the ability – while legible, it has a weird blank block in its middle, and lacks a whole bunch of blank spaces. Beast shape, Wisdom for casting and divine spellcasting sourced from ranger and druid (noting spell level discrepancies and clarifying that – kudos!) – you get the idea here. Similarly, the hexwielder would be, bingo, the witchy magus, with limited hex access and the means to debuff via a custom array of potential-based strikes, this one is interesting.

Part II of my review can be found here!


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****( )

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series 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!

After we receive a brief piece of fluff that contextualizes the Kasatha within the Xa-Osoro system, we begin this supplement with the kasatha paragon archetype – obviously, this one requires that you’re a kasatha. At 2nd level, the alternate class feature nets you a feat that requires being a kasatha or having “Kasatha” in its name. This may be taken as a replacement class feature at 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level as well.

The pdf then proceeds to provide 9 new feats:

-Adaptive Stride: Requires Nimble Moves and makes you choose a terrain type from a list; in that terrain, you may thereafter move unimpeded through nonmagical terrain at normal speed.

-Archaic Weapon Proficiency: Attacks made with weapons, including unarmed ones, never count as archaic. This can be somewhat problematic, as the archaic property can usually be used as a means to balance some items. While this is not something SFRPG has been doing extensively, it is clearly the design intent behind how the archaic property is structured, so this could become broken rather fast.

-Armorless Adept: When unarmored, gain class level as insight bonus to EAC and KAC. You lose this bonus when unconscious or asleep, and your flat-footed penalty to AC increases to -4. The latter should only apply when unarmored, imho. RAW it also applies when such a character wears armor. Nice: Effects that provide immunity to this effect are accounted for and instead reduce the penalty. Strong, but cool option. Like it.

-Efficient Fusillade: Builds on Fusillade and halves your ammo-consumption for Fusillades. Solid.

-Honorable Edicts: +2 to saves vs. charm or compulsion – the bonus is untyped and should probably be insight. When affected, you get a second save, depending on the interval by which the duration is measured, and codifies this properly. Nice. Interacts with Personal Customs for a synergy boost.

-Personal Customs: Really cool premise – describe a custom in three categories: Combat, social and wellness. This can be something you do, or refrain from doing. As long as you maintain them, you gain a bonus: Combat lets you spend 1 Resolve Point as an “immediate action” (that should be reaction…) to reroll an attack roll or saving throw and use the higher result. Social shares the same action snafu and lets you reroll skill checks, and Wellness nets you a +1 circumstance bonus to saving throws vs. nonmagical afflictions. I like the notion of this feat, but the action-snafu is a bit annoying. I also have balance-concerns when seeing its benefits in contrast to e.g. the Watch your step envoy improvisation. The combat reroll imho should not use the better result, or have some other limitation. As written, this is a VERY strong feat.

-Multi-Handed Drive-By: Really cool: Drive a vehicle AND use two hands to fight during vehicle chases.

-Multi-Handed Fighting: Builds on Multi-Weapon Fighting. Nets its benefits when you make a full attack with two or more weapons, regardless of type or number of hands required to wield them. I look at this one with some worry when considering the big guns out there. I’d at least have gone with a stricter prerequisite and relegated this to higher levels.

-Multi-Handed Reload: With two or more hands free, you treat any weapon wielded as a quick reload weapon – here, we have a catch that prevents abuse: Weapons only qualify if their ammo’s Bulk doesn’t exceed 1 or more. It also prevents automatic abuse. Solid!

The pdf also contains a new soldier fighting style, the battle dancer. At 1st level, we get Improved Unarmed Strike or a combat feat, and don’t need a free hand to make unarmed strikes. At 5th level we choose whether damage inflicted with unarmed attacks is lethal or nonlethal and gain a unique weapon specialization – bingo, 1.5 times character level is added to damage. Natural weapon specialization instead benefits from a further +2 to damage bonus. We also get a +1 insight bonus to all combat maneuvers; on a success, this bonus is increased by a further +1 for every 5 class levels to determine effects. Interesting. 9th level lets you spend 1 Resolve Point to impose a variety of different conditions on foes you strike with unarmed attacks, with a Fort-save to negate the effect and duration determined by half your choice of Strength or Dexterity modifier, whichever is higher. 13th level lets you add an attack as a reaction after a full attack of unarmed strikes has hit a foe – I assume all attacks, if more than one, have to hit. The reaction-based attack ignores DR and hardness, if any. Alternatively, you can use your reaction to make a combat maneuver attempt selected with Improved Combat maneuver. The verbiage is somewhat unfortunate here, with references like “second attack” being something that may easily be misunderstood. The ability uses the attack bonus of the attack(s) used to set it up – verbiage here could be slightly clearer as well. The 17th level ability, finally, provides immunity to being dazzled, flat-footed, off-kilter and off-target. Additionally, you may spend 1 Resolve Point as a reaction to ignore a wide variety of conditions for 3 rounds.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard and the artwork featured is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

This is John Laffan’s first supplement I’ve reviewed, and it shows ample promise. There are quite a few genuinely nice concepts herein, and while I am concerned regarding the long-term viability and balance of a couple of the options, this nonetheless offers a couple of gems I consider definitely worth taking on board. While I would usually round down, the author benefits from the freshman bonus, which makes me round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review is part of a series of requests undertaken at the request of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Okay, so, as always, this module is penned with the OSRIC rules in mind, but conversion to other OSR rulesets is relatively painless. As always, we don’t get read-aloud text herein, and there are a couple of formal differences from the formatting conventions that OSRIC employs, but these, for the most part, apply in a mostly consistent manner. Nominally intended for 6-10 characters of level 3- 5, the adventure is challenging, but mostly in a way that is contingent on how the PCs interact with the environments found and encountered. Attempting to murder-hobo through everything can and will get you killed here. While in the previous module, murder-hoboing PCs could still potentially get away with quite a few things, this stops here – dumb decisions can get PCs killed. Quickly. But similarly, smart PCs may actually be able to best foes far beyond their ability to defeat by force of arms alone. (More on that in the SPOILER-section.) In short: If your PCs is Lawful Stupid, they will die.

There is one more aspect you may need to be aware of: This module represents a taking up of a dangling thread from the very first Advanced Adventures-module, “The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom” and may be run as a direct sequel to said adventure; knowledge of the previous module is not required, and it is pretty easy to integrate this module into the context of any prolonged underworld campaign or exploration, whether they are mega-dungeon-based or subterranean sagas like AAW Games’ excellent Rise of the Drow campaign. This module also represents the second of two modules that expand the material based on the eponymous Shadowvein, which means that, unless you really don’t want to play the prequel, it’s recommend that you first play “Down the Shadowvein”. The Shadowvein, fyi, is a subterranean river, a black ribbon of water illuminated by purple and green lichen, with tendrils of almost snot-like strands hanging from them – colloquially known as “faerie sputum” to those traveling its length.

From a genre-perspective, we have, much like in its predecessor, a pretty free-form sandbox here – a subterranean hexcrawl, which cleverly uses the subterranean river Shadowvein as a kind of red thread that the PCs may or may not follow. The module does a pretty neat job at depicting the differences regarding the environment and sandbox style play: For one, we not only get different random encounter tables, they differentiate between passage types: You see, the overland hexcrawl map knows primary, secondary and tertiary passages, with different encounters suggested for each.

As a small digression: There are generally two aesthetic design paradigms regarding the underworld, two “genres” if you will: One would be the “civilized” underworld – a realm of vast dwarven fortresses and drow cities, where civilizations both alien and familiar thrive, and then there would be the “weird” underworld, where anything remotely resembling the civilized world vanishes, where strange and chthonian phenomena and creatures roam, where, depending on the setting, one might find entrances to the literal underworld, or even hell. This module, in a smart decision, provides a transition – the Shadowvein, as noted in my review of the predecessor module, very much starts as a trip through “civilized” underworld, while this module represents the PCs leaving these subterranean shores behind in favor of a stranger environments where few upperworlder soles have tread before. However, it does so without a hard cut into the strange, instead using the course of the river to slowly emphasize a transition towards these regions – and VERY FEW modules manage to achieve that; this is the primary reason I copped out and went with two final verdicts regarding my review of its predecessor. In a way, this module represents the payoff and continuation for the exploration of the first Shadowvein adventure.

Considering this, I do have to complain about something: Much to my chagrin and disappointment, the random encounter tables are the exact same as in the previous Shadowvein module (and no, some typo-level glitches haven’t been purged). The encounter tables focus primarily on humanoids, with very few other critters thrown in. This, to me, was somewhat galling, as the module starts transitioning between what one would dub the “civilized” regions of the underworld, and the region that starts to become truly alien and wondrous. As such, a change of pace regarding the tables would have been appreciated. I strongly suggest investing the time and making the random encounter tables more interesting, or rather, different, for this one.

Noja, undal and wyrdwolf stats have been included in this module as well, alongside 3 other creatures – since the exploration of the subterranean realms and the surprise they can elicit is part of the module’s charm, I’ll relegate my discussion of these to the SPOILER-section below.

As before, the player-map of the Shadowvein has been included with its intentional idiosyncrasies still representing one design decision I really enjoyed, and we do get 5 “zoomed-in”, fully mapped encounter areas. I minded the lack of player-friendly maps for them slightly less in most cases than I did for the previous adventure, though one in particular was just BEGGING for a player-friendly map: You see, there is a pretty massive hexcrawl region, with the map spanning two-pages – that one should have been included in a keyless, untagged version at least.

The module contains a couple of new magic items, which include the utilitarian svirfneblin forge stone, a rod that brings the undead back to horrid unlife, an amulet that enhances undead control, a chest that can store a spell to unleash upon intruders, and one item that would represent a SPOILER of sorts – just let it be known that there is a touch of science-fantasy included in the weird herein, with one of the “zoomed-in” adventure locations adhering to that aesthetic.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.


..
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Okay, only GMs around? Great! The first complex featured herein is already more interesting than all in the previous module combined: The lair of Tyrhanidies the lich features his well-concealed subterranean abode, and the mighty spellcaster is using undead as a toll-collecting means. This would per se be unremarkable, were it not for a curious effect haunting the labyrinthine caverns hiding his belongings and lair: There are strange magical effects here, where gravity doesn’t work properly, and something about them makes those exploring these caves turn stark, raving mad: An innocuous slime causes these visions magically to affect all intelligent creatures (yep, RAW, including the undead!) and the lich has found a way to deal with this, employing the curious property to further shore up his seriously impressive defenses. Now, granted, the PCs may find themselves bypassing this region relatively painless, but we all know how undead spellcasters tend to enjoy press-ganging PCs into doing their bidding…and how PCs are bound to come into conflict with such entities. Cool: Smart and observant PCs either called and escorted to the lich’s abode may realize that there is one object with tremendous sentimental value for the mighty master of the living dead. This, obviously, represents an angle to really annoy the fellow – or to negotiate with a being far beyond the capabilities of the PCs at this level to actually destroy! This is a great area indeed, and its focus on atmosphere, global effects and various means in which you can run it made me really appreciate what was done here.

The second encounter area is pretty much…boring. A grimlock ambush. It exists, but it doesn’t contribute too much to the module’s appeal. After that, we have a svirfneblin outpost that can be construed to be the final waystation of civilization along the Shadowvein’s course, a last chance to rest in a safe environment before the massive, aforementioned hex-crawl sub-region: In a ginromous cavern, the overgrown ruins of a drow city lurk in basically the equivalent of a jungle-choked city of ruins. You see, at one time, the drow that used to reside here managed to capture and harness the godling known as the Pod-God with the help of a demonic patron. It is said entity that ultimately managed to destroy the city, including the artifact employed in imprisoning the entity – this actually did slay the pod-god, but fungi will find a way, and as such, the deity is gestating currently – there will be centuries before the potent deity can reform, but this creates a wondrous environment indeed, one suffused with magic, where stone giants from eastern realms (with an inconsistency in nomenclature), mongrelman and more loom; this region is clearly intended to be expanded, and much to my joy, there are 4 different random encounter tables for each sub-biome of the massive cavern. Oh, one more thing: The gestating pod-god actually wasn’t neutral or evil – it was actually a good entity, and thus, its puffball is guarded by a planetar! With a gate that emits screaming noise and similar, unique environments, this cavern oozes panache and flair galore. This is a great cavern, and would be one of the highlights of the adventure – even remotely capable GMs will have some seriously fun time running and expanding this inspiring environment.

The final encounter are would be unique as well: It depicts the “Green Death Isle” – setting foot upon this island used to see those that dared to do so evaporated, so the hunk of metal there remained unexplored. Well, guess what? That hunk of metal? It’s a actually a flying saucer, and since then, the reactor has run out of fuel, and the defensive disintegration ray? It no longer works. In the aftermath of the reactor’s radiation, a unique people has developed here, namely the terplip, a race of sentient, humanoid mantis-shrimp people! If you’re like me, you raised your hands in the old devil’s horn-gesture and went “Hell yeah!” I mean, come on – mantis-shrimp people? Awesome! We have two different random encounter tables for this region as well, and this becomes even cooler once you learn about the crustacean dragon and the remaining robots – smart PCs may actually be able to save the terplip from their servitude to the draconic creature. Did I mention the laser pistol?

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good, on a formal and rules-language level – apart from a few minor inconsistencies and the like, I noticed nothing glaring. Layout adheres to the series’ classic two-column b/w-standard, with a few decent b/w-artworks thrown in. The cartography does its job, and I really enjoyed the inclusion of a player-friendly map for the Shadowvein’s environments. It would have been nice to get player-friendly maps for the trade/social encounter areas at least, though. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Joseph Browning’s “The Mouth of the Shadowvein” delivers in spades – while two of the zoomed-in encounter areas provide pretty obvious functions and are here to facilitate play (the safe zone) or act as filler (the ambush), the other three regions are amazing. They require smart players and are more deadly than anything the PCs have found so far; there are implied quest-lines that may or may not be taken and used to motivate the players to interact with the factions, and the combination of unique vistas, as a whole, delivers on the promises slowly built up during the previous adventures, while taking up the leitmotif of the original adventure that spawned the notion of exploring the Shadowvein. In short: This is a great little adventure that does a nice job at depicting a region of the underworld that feels like it’s tip-toeing the line between the civilized and weird subterranean realms. It captures the best of early AD&D-aesthetics regarding these realms and molds them into a fun and rewarding expansion, one that ostensibly, like in the previous module, may be taken apart or expanded upon, should you choose to go that route. All in all, this is worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up since the lack of a player-friendly map for the sub-region hexcrawl does not warrant rounding down, and this also receives my seal of approval. Come on, the terplip are awesome!

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so this supplement kicks off with an array of new archetypes for the brawler-class, with the first being the cannon-striker, who gets proficiency with simple weapons and firearms as well as light armor, treating brawler class levels as gunslinger and monk levels for the purpose of feat prerequisites and for the purpose of items. 1st level nets Gunsmithing and a battered firearm, replacing martial training and unarmed strikes. They are locked into bonus combat feats and may only execute ranged attacks with firearms as part of a brawler’s flurry, with -4 to atk and no Strength modifier added to damage. Problem here: This does not help with the reloading issues at low levels or the misfires. Knockout is replaced with a grit-less pistol-whip, which may be used in conjunction with the flurry, though imho, this should be exempt from the increased penalty incurred from the flurry-modification. Instead of brawler’s strike and close weapon mastery, we have the option to reload two-handed firearms as though they were one-handed, as well as immunity to being knocked prone from firing one. 12th level nets deadeye 1/day, and 17th level increases that to 3/day. Awesome Blow is altered to work in conjunction with the firearm instead.

The combat Sybil is a changeling racial archetype that gains medium spellcasting at one fewer spell per day per level, governed by Charisma; 1st level nets mage hand as a knack, 13th level telekinesis as a 4th level spell. Martial telekinesis and telekinetic maneuver are added as 3rd level spells to the spell-list, but aren’t gained automatically. The archetype receives a witch patron, gaining spells at 3rd,8th,13th and 18th level, treating the spells as spell-levels 1st to 4th instead, replacing maneuver training. The combat Sybil treats brawler levels as fighter levels, and the combat Sybil doesn’t gain claws. Here is the unique thing about these guys: They replace the AC bonus with the means to give up the first attack of a flurry to use mage hand or sustained force telekinesis (if available!) to extend the range of the flurry attacks, codifying these attacks properly as ranged attacks, using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity as governing key ability modifier. The weapon returns to her hand, and the complex rules-operation is executed properly, and if the character has access to aforementioned optional spells, the feature gains additional, related options. Knockout may be used in conjunction with these, and the awesome blow sequence and brawler’s strike are replaced at 5th level with foe fling, with creature size category scaling, as she learns to enemy hammer foes with her telekinetic powers – this would be rather strong, but is held in check by a hex-caveat. Very complex, technical, and fun tweak.

Cursed pugilists replace martial training with an oracle curse, using ½ class level (minimum 1) as oracle level, and AC bonus replaced with a mystery, which does not grant spells. Instead of martial flexibility, the brawler may change out revelations from the respective oracle mystery chosen. The feat-array is thus also tweaked. Faith’s hand, in contrast, deals scaling bonus damage versus targets opposed to the alignment of the archetype’s deity chosen, akin to an alignment-based sneak attack. 2nd and 11th level’s bonus feats are replaced with two blessings, treating class level -1 as warpriest levels. Brawler’s Strike at 12th level can choose two alignment components.

The fleetfoot replaces the brawler’s bonus combat feats with dimensional darter at 2nd level, the option to, as a swift action, increase base speed by 50%, usable 1/day, +1/day for every three levels thereafter. 5th level nets storm step as a SP, treating this as dimension door for the purpose of feats, usable 1/day, +1/day for every 4 levels thereafter. The higher levels yield the Dimensional Agility feat-tree in conjunction with these tricks. 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter increase the base movement speed by +10 ft.

Knockers treat their monk level as ½ their knocker level (minimum 1) to determine close weapon damage, but get Awesome Blow at 4th level, and they can push the target further back, adding a scaling mechanism. Improved Awesome Blow is similarly modified and gained as soon as 8th level, providing more nuanced control about that component. Interesting engine tweak. Lethal Study gets UMD as a class skill and chooses bard, hunter, inquisitor, magus, mesmerist or spiritualist or warpriest, gaining the ability to use spell completion and trigger items as though they had the chosen class’s spells of up to 6th level, replacing martial training. Instead of martial flexibility, we have the ability to cast 0th-level spells as at-will SPs of the chosen class, and 2nd level nets Arcane Strike, 8th level Riving Strike as bonus feats, using class level as caster level, with 5th level providing Craft Wand, replacing the bonus feats usually gained at these levels. The unique thing: These guys may use wands as weapons, with 5th level allowing for the use unarmed strike damage with them (at the cost of a charge) and the use of charges to also deliver spells held in the wand with such attacks.

Prize fighters use essentially the performance combat engine, and may gain performance feats with martial flexibility; Dirty Trick specialization and interaction of knockout and awesome blow with the performance combat engine is provided. Sumpters replace brawler’s strike and maneuver training with the ability to carry massive amounts of stuff and reduced penalties for load. Cool: The massive bunch of stuff these guys are bound to carry is used as the “Big Bag of Pain”, replacing unarmed strikes with essentially an oversized sap. This made me genuinely laugh when I read it for the first time. Love the visuals! Using massive, debris-filled bags as super-saps? I can totally get behind that… XD

Trance brawlers are another take on a monk/barbarian-ish crossover, with a Wisdom-governed, scaling battle trance, with some abilities of the core class relegated to the trance. Instead of combat feats, we have some rage powers applying to the trance. The triage medic is neat: Swift action (and more efficient!) use of the Heal skill, as well as Heal affecting damage at higher levels – this may not be a strong option, but it’s one that I like. Weapon specialist chooses a fighter weapon group for weapon proficiency, and applies this as the governing group for the purposes of brawler class features, with unarmed strike relegated to 4th level (and at -3 levels); maneuver training is gained at 7th level, but atk and damage are enhanced with the chosen group. Okay, I guess. Wild scrappers gets Aspect of the Beast and thus would be the claw-tweak for the brawler, modifying flurry and gaining pounce at 12h level. Wyrmfang brawlers would be kobolds that begin play with Elemental Fist, which is assigned to a dragon-based elemental energy and yields corresponding bonus feats at 6th, 10th and 14th level, replacing martial flexibility. Unarmed strike is replaced with tail terror and 2nd level increases Strength by +4 for the purpose of unarmed strikes, natural attacks or close weapon group weaponry, replacing 2nd level’s combat feat. Close weapon mastery is replaced with class level -4 monk damage; kobold tail attachments are treated as close weapon group. The dragon heritage that determines styles also influences the enhancements that apply via the archetype’s brawler’s strike variant.

The pdf contains 13 new feats, which include a feat that allows you to unlock the follow-up feats of Awesome Blow (you know, the ones with the ridiculously high Strength-prerequisites), and one that makes your fighter and monk level for prerequisite-purposes as higher, with BAB +11 increasing that further. Limited Strength-based crafting may also be found, and the feats include three new styles: Close Combat Style allows you to expand the close weapon group, while Knocking Style is about moving targets around and potentially knocking them prone. The Rakshasa Style nets you scaling DR and in the end, enhances your effectiveness versus divine casters.

The pdf also provides 8 so-called brawler arts, which can be considered to be alternate choices to awesome blow and knockout. Awesome blow may be replaces with super-powered disarms (that also inflict sunder damage), potent drags or flinging of targets. Knockout may be replaced with nauseating gut blows, attacks that confuse the target, an attack that renders the target flat-footed, grapple with autopins or bonus damage based on Wisdom. It should be noted that variant multiclassing rules for the brawler are included as well.

The pdf includes the urban aggressor 10-level PrC, which gains full BAB-progression, ½ Fort-save progression, d10 HD and 2 + Int skills per level; the prerequisites can be met as soon as 5th level. The PrC gets a ki pool of ½ class level + Wisdom modifier, or stacks levels with ki-possessing classes. PrC class levels stack with brawler levels for the purpose if brawler’s flurry, martial flexibility and unarmed strikes. The PRC gets DR 2/- versus nonlethal damage, increasing by +2 at 4th level and every 3rd level thereafter. 2nd level nets aggression points: You choose either active or passive aggression each day anew. Active aggression nets you 1 aggression point when you confirm a critical hit or reduce a foe with an unarmed strike or close weapon group to 0 hit points or below. Thankfully, this can’t be cheesed due a kitten-caveat.

Passive aggression nets an aggression point when the character suffers a critical threat or if the fail a Fort-save, and once more, there is a caveat, though here, the HD-caveat was forgotten, making the caveat somewhat toothless. Aggression points cap at ½ Constitution modifier (minimum 1) and temporary increases do not alter this limit. At the end of each minute the aggressor doesn’t gain such a point, one is lost, but as long as the aggressor has them, their number is added to atk with unarmed strikes and close weapon group attacks. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter nets a ki talent chosen from a list that allows for options that provide further uses for aggression points, use of ki to use martial flexibility, etc, These are interesting, but I couldn’t help but think that the engine per se could have used even more tricks – style strike uses and the like are intriguing, as are kinetic blasts. Aggression points may also be used at 5th level to ignore limited amounts of DR or hardness, and at 8th level, this may be applied to full attacks. 10th level is a nice culmination, allowing for the use of aggression points to get ki talents – including a non-stacking caveat. I really like the engine and its potential here – I think it could have carried a longer class.

The pdf also contains 5 different magic items, with wrestling oil making the target count as though grease’d for quite a while. Warlord’s tattoos (available in three iterations), are assigned a chosen feat, which is then temporarily granted access to; they have a cap that prevents abuse, and duration is contingent on tattoo type chosen. Furious biter is an interesting spring-loaded punching dagger that can add a further attack when used with flurries as the exclusive weapon. Drooling fangs are a tekko-kagi that can apply poisons, potion effects (un-)holy water and similar effects – oh, and it’s human-bane. Glowlash manacles enhance the attacks performed with them modifying size category and reach, but only a limited amount of times per day.

As far as sample NPCs are concerned, we are introduced to Edelhyde Slagg, a level 11 human weapon specialist using battle poi (awesome!), and Witt the Rimetailed, a level 12 wyrmfang brawler kobold has also been included – both NPCs come with very compelling background stories and pretty darn amazing full-color artworks as well as proper boons for PCs befriending them. Cool: The two are fierce foes, but particularly diplomatic PCs may actually manage to end the strife between them!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting re up to Legendary Games’ usual, very high standard on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf employs a blend of previously used and new full-color artworks, with particularly the sample NPCs standing out. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Onyx Tanuki deliver an incredibly technical and challenging pdf here – the rules-operations executed here, time and again, are complex, precise and show a deep understanding of complex rules interactions. I was very happy to see the brawler arts as some customization options, and the archetypes, while primarily focused on engine tweaks, do feature quite an assortment of challenging and playstyle-altering tricks. Now, to be frank, while I don’t exactly love the brawler-class, it is one of the ACG-classes I can get behind. I see its appeal, and I actually use it. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel that a more pronounced focus on brawler arts that would provide unique abilities for the class would have been more rewarding than the crossover archetypes. Then again, you may chalk that up to a certain degree of fatigue I have with regards “It’s class x, save that it has tweaked class feature y of class z” style archetypes.

Before you get the wrong impression: There are plenty of options herein that do more than that, and even engine tweaks herein tend to fall on the interesting side of things. This is, after all, a well-executed expansion for the brawler-class, one that provides plenty of fixes for holes in the rules, and as such, this is a book I’d wholeheartedly recommend for fans of the class, particularly if one of the more far out concepts (the two racial archetypes are my highlights in that section!) struck a chord with you. It won’t make you love the class if you previously didn’t like it, but it will make you like it more – and what more can you ask of a class expansion like this? My final verdict will be 5 stars – as expected from Onyx Tanuki at this point.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This installment of the Starfarer Adversaries-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, first of all: The sample artwork, as always reproduced as a 1-page handout within, rocks this time around. I have a soft spot for plant monsters, and it managed to creep me out, so that’s a good thing. The pdf contains not one, not two, but 4 different statblocks for different stages in the eponymous djinn plant’s life cycle: CR 1/3, CR 3, CR 12 and CR 19. It’s a plant, no surprises there, and the graft has been properly applied. The plants use the expert array as a basis.

So, the djinn plant, conceptually, comes quite a bit more explanation than other critters in the series, and there’s a reason for that – the budding, Tiny CR 1/3 version actually feels like a good decoration for most sentient species: It’s basically a venus flytrap-like plant that can’t move and subsist on annoying vermin, parasites, etc. Oh, and they smell nice. Really nice. As in calm emotions (Starfarer’s Companion)-levels of nice. Here’s the problem – while they can’t speak as a Tiny plant, they do learn to speak.

Once they’ve grown to adulthood, they get the signature ability that nets them their name “Aid Benefector” – sounds nice, right? Well, they reveal that they are sentient then, and communicate with their benefactors. You see, the plant can actually, once per week, grant you a wish. It just needs you to do this one teeny-tiny thing. Feed it a member of your species with a CR equal to or greater than the plant. DAYUM; that’s dark and would really screw up our entire planet, considering how humans can be!

What do I mean by that? It gets better! At CR 12, when they mature, they become ambulatory, have tendrils (with grab) and may swallow targets whole. Oh, and they start emitting those spores. Which will mutate plant-life into more djinn plants. WTF. That’s nightmare fuel. And all the while, everyone remains oh so calm, thanks to their aroma…OUCH. Once they reach their greater stage, they can trample targets and inflict, treant-style, double damage against objects. And yes, I genuinely consider them to be damn scary. Minor complaint: The swallow whole damage listed for the greater djinn plant is incorrect – it should be 6d10 + 25 A.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level; apart from the one minor snafu, I noticed nothing serious that would impede your enjoyment. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork is really nice this time around. The pdf has a single bookmark to the credits, but needs none at this length.

Jacob Blackmon’s djinn plants bring a little touch of a certain shop of horrors to space, and makes them a potentially civilizations-ending nightmare. I love them! How could I not! My one complaint here is that it’d have been nice to see a corruption, Occult Skill Guide style, or a disease-like representation for the “I mutate other plant-life”-angle, since chances aren’t that bad that sooner or later, there’ll be quite a few plant-based PC-races. Oh well, this still comes highly recommended at a final verdict of 5 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This module clocks in at 75 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 65 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.

This adventure is intended as an introductory adventure for the Scarthey setting that depicts a Harry Potter-esque magic academy; I have covered the basic setting assumptions in my review of the “Welcome to Scarthey”-supplement. It should be noted, though, that, while useful to have, said supplement is not required in order to run this adventure. All the respective components required to run this in a meaningful manner have been included within. This includes, but is not limited to, a representation of the overview map of Scarthey’s campus, which still doesn’t feature a scale to denote the actual dimensions of the massive magic academy.

The basic assumption of the adventure is that the PCs are invited/admitted to Scarthey as part of Adventuring Studies, a program that seeks to generate an efficient adventuring party. This process is roughly grouped into not a few weeks, but is intended to cover no less than three in-game years, with the players taking control of their PCs for key scenes, so no, you won’t have to micromanage complex school-day/social life calendars. (Come to think of it: That’d have been awesome for nerds like yours truly…) Anyhow, this focus on a long-term adventure is something I only rarely get to see, so this is indeed something I am excited to see how it is performed!

The module features read-aloud text for key-scenes, but not every encounter, and also sports side-bars that help contextualize things, and indeed, it is interesting to note that the summary of the fields of operations the module classifies characters in includes the occult classes – kudos for catching and rectifying this oversight of the original Scarthey supplement. Another thing I really loved: At the end of each year, we get an “End of Term”-Report, a pretty fancy-looking document that makes for a great handout! This also extends to a certain outsider contract and a final diploma, all of which get their own handouts. Going above and beyond the required here, this aspect really rocks. A fully-gridded one-page Undervault map has been included (an unlabeled version would have been nice), and the supplement features a couple of rather nice full-color, unlabeled battle-mat-style maps for more complex encounters. Story awards for roleplaying are noted throughout the adventure, which I something I definitely consider great.

Structurally, the module can thus be seen as a primarily event-driven sequence of happenstances that allow for a significant freedom when it comes to the implementation of when and how to modify a given encounter; one could also argue that the structure of the adventure lends itself rather well to poaching components from its pages.

All right, that is pretty much as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players of this adventure should jump ahead to the conclusion.


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All right, only GMs around? Great! After the introduction ceremony and welcoming speech of the Arcchancellor, the PCs will have a chance to mingle and become acquainted with the university grounds. Their dormitories are housed in the Undervaults, a massive series of caverns, with the armor of a once famous, nameless paladin acting as an appropriately magical guardian. The PCs are housed in the Octavius dormitory, so named for one of the university’s largest benefectors, and 4 adventurers to be are grouped per room to represent the four fields of operations. A concise list of fellow students, focused primarily on fluff-centric write-ups, but noting alignment, templates and classes if applicable, is provided as well, allowing an ambitious GM to potentially flesh out the class and fellow students in a Persona-like manner without much hassle – kudos here! Indeed, the PCs will have a nice candidate for the snobbish foil with the scion of the mighty Octavius clan, Kellin, being one of their fellow students – and yes, he does come fully statted. Oh, and his cronies? A gorgeous female and a halfing-sized slime-thing called Splish-splosh. Yes, this does embrace the magic-angle more than the “Welcome”-file did.

The PCs then will be undergoing a test (in which the best of them will be beaten by a hair’s breadth by Kellin) and then, they’ll be assigned to each other in a narrative conceit the module freely acknowledges to the GM, which I considered to be pretty refreshing. This would also be an excellent point in time to note that academic success is tracked throughout the module, with “Merits” making for a kind of currency and abstract measure of success. Further scenes deal with e.g. a guardian scroll trap left in the library to test the resourcefulness and mettle of PCs, and notes on the location where detention is held, and on a creature if the PCs wander off-limits – these are basically the global and intrdocutory floating scenes.

After these, we dive into the nit and grit of year 1, which includes scenes that encompass being attacked by a freed, animated rotating tumbler (in a class on, bingo, bypassing locks), trying to pass a trapped door. Defense class studies, pranks for breaking curfew that may or may not see the PCs outsmarted…and what about PCs being tasked to find the lost laundry building? Nope, that was no typo. The laundry building vanishes, and it’ll be up to the PCs to deal with a mischievous, but not necessarily evil leprechaun! Of course, dealing with their rivals and finally passing the exam should also be noted as steps that the PCs will have to succeed at on their way to becoming full-fledged adventurers! (As noted before – cool inclusion that we get an end-of-year document/certificate as a handout!)
Year 2 includes soup animating as oozes that need to be dealt with (surprisingly dangerous!), a brief “micro-dungeon” quest in the Undervaults to get the fully statted magical inkwell of the discipline’s founder at Scarthey (the eponymous Anaximander), and more – for example, the PCs will have to find a miniature phoenix on behalf of one of the deans: The critter is lavishly-illustrated and properly statted, including notes for use as a familiar! PCs (and players, if they’re new!) will learn to deal with swarms, and another test deals with first being afflicted with a curse, and then finding a way to undo it. Additionally, the PCs (and players) will learn to mind AoE-effects when e.g. attempting to secure fragile blossoms. The final exam is rather cool: The PCs are led into the forest, poisoned, and have to secure the eggs of a forest drake from a nearby cave-complex to get rid of the exotic poison.

During year 3, we have frost wights stalking the complex via obscure tunnels in the middle of summer vacations – and the PCs learn dealing with outsiders. This includes a smudged summoning circle and a devilish contract – the contract is reproduced, and indeed, the pdf goes so far as to provide not one, but two different addendums for PCs not so easily fooled by the devil’s clever contract – this was a really clever, well-executed version of the old trope. Kudos! During the PC’s time off, they may fight merrow on a lavishly-mapped beach, and then get their first underwater adventuring experience, if they play their cards right. A race to assemble an armor (nice mini-game). The PCs will also get to be paired with their (by now) loathed rivals in an encounter that features a smart badger, teaching cooperation once more.

The final exam of the class focuses on a sphere of annihilation that has appeared in a side tunnel, requiring the unearthing of a talisman…and as the PCs are briefed, the rector vanishes when tracing a curious rune – and right after that, dark folk assault from a secret door. The PCs will have a chance to save or leave Kellin to his fate – and ultimately find a secret study, where Anaximander, founder of the program and now a broken lich-thing bereft of his phylactery. Defeating the lich constitutes the end of the supplement and final exam – failure to do so does not result in death, though: Just in the requirement to repeat a year, as in that case, it turns out to be staged. Smart way to avoid frustration for new players!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the lavish and pretty impressive two-column full-color standard that made the first Scarthey-supplement such a joy to look at. The artworks are a great blending of perfectly fitting public domain and gorgeous full-color artworks. The cartography provides ranges from nice (encounter-maps) to okay (Undervault map), and the latter could have used a player-friendly version. It is my huge pleasure to announce that the Rising Phoenix crew learned from their mistakes – not only is the entire module studded with bookmarks that render navigation as comfortable as they should be, you can also highlight, copy and search the text, eliminating two serious gripes I had with the original Scarthey-supplement!

Jeffrey Swank delivers in spades in this module – not only is this long and could be deemed to be a sandbox of sorts that you can easily expand, it also does something I like: It teaches newbies the basics of adventuring…both PCs and players. The magical context ensures that veterans will have their fun as well, and indeed, personally, I consider this to be one of the best modules to introduce new players to Pathfinder – provided the GM knows what they are doing. The module does assume that the GM has some experience under their belt, and there may be modules that are easier to run. But as far as “teaching by doing” is concerned, this covers all the bases of the adventuring life. This, interestingly, generates a unity of themes between intent out-game and in-game, a notion I thoroughly enjoy. We also have the depth here that I was sorely missing from the “Welcome to Scarthey”-supplement – we learn about teaching methods, rivalries and the like, and the whole academy felt more vibrant and alive to me here. In short: This can be considered to be an impressive success, particularly since, unless I’m mistaken, this is the author’s first adventure.

It should, if the cool ideas and themes mentioned were not ample clue for you, also be noted that the module is appropriate for play with kids. While I probably would suggest it for ages 8+, there are serious differences between how sensitive kids are, so do take that with a grain of salt. This is a wholesome module that manages to capture the themes of rivalries and whimsy rather well. If there’s anything missing from this module, it’d have been nice to see scoring implemented a bit more thoroughly, and to have a player-friendly version of the Undervault. Bereft of any serious pieces of criticism beyond that, I will remain with a final verdict of 5 stars for this adventure, just short of my seal of approval. A grand step forward for Scarthey!

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review is part of a series of requests undertaken at the request of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Okay, so, as always, this module is penned with the OSRIC rules in mind, but conversion to other OSR rulesets is relatively painless. As always, we don’t get read-aloud text herein, and there are a couple of formal differences from the formatting conventions that OSRIC employs, but these, for the most part, apply in a mostly consistent manner. Nominally intended for 6-10 characters of level 3- 5, the adventure is challenging, but mostly in a way that is contingent on how the PCs interact with the environments found and encountered. Attempting to murder-hobo through everything can and will get you killed here.

There is one more aspect you may need to be aware of: This module represents a taking up of a dangling thread from the very first Advanced Adventures-module, “The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom” and may be run as a direct sequel to said adventure; knowledge of the previous module is not required, and it is pretty easy to integrate this module into the context of any prolonged underworld campaign or exploration, whether they are mega-dungeon-based or subterranean sagas like AAW Games’ excellent Rise of the Drow campaign. This module also represents the first of two modules that expand the material based on the eponymous Shadowvein, with “The Mouth of the Shadowvein” representing the second adventure and conclusion of the exploration. The Shadowvein, fyi, is a subterranean river, a black ribbon of water illuminated by purple and green lichen, with tendrils of almost snot-like strands hanging from them – colloquially known as “faerie sputum” to those traveling its length.

From a genre-perspective, we have a pretty free-form sandbox here – a subterranean hexcrawl, which, cleverly, uses the subterranean river Shadowvein as a kind of red thread that the PCs may or may not follow. The module does a pretty neat job at depicting the differences regarding the environment and sandbox style play: For one, we not only get different random encounter tables, they differentiate between passage types: You see, the overland hexcrawl map knows primary, secondary and tertiary passages, with different encounters suggested for each. As a whole, this module takes place in the “civilized” region of the underworld, with settlements and outposts providing a reflection of social dynamics and paradigms one could theoretically encounter in the sunlit world as well – it takes place in the realms of drow cities, dwarven holds, etc. The weirder aspects, where society and civilization tend to fall apart and be replaced with the truly strange may be found in the sequel, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The encounter tables thus focus primarily on humanoids, with very few other critters thrown in.

This is not to say that there is no strangeness here, mind you: There would, for example, be a need breed of monster, the furnace worm, that consumes rock and excretes valuable metals contained within; we are introduced to the subterranean trade-race dubbed “Noja”, 3- 4 ft. small humanoids with a penchant for mischief and trickery – almost like trader-fey/gnome-crossovers if you will. Interesting: The females and males of the race can cast different spells. The noja act as a kind of linchpin for the other two creatures introduced – the undal being pack animals with weird crowns of horns that allow them to execute nasty charges, and the wyrdwolves, which are basically canine critters with the ability to make their eyes glow in a blinding strobe that can temporarily blind prey. The latter may not sound like much, but personally, I enjoyed them. Their presentation makes them strange, yet plausible enough. It’s also nice to see the umber hulk concept regarding canines executed with a pretty different flavor here.

Much to my joy, the module remembered the hook of the PCs finding a map of the Shadowvein – a SPOILER-free player’s map of the Shadowvein has been provided, and yep, it does not feature issues and indeed, has some areas where it’s less reliable. I always like that kind of thing – big plus for going the extra mile here.

This module contains a total of 5 different “zoom-in” adventure locales that the PCs following the Shadowvein may find, and the map leaves enough space for GMs to add their own modules and encounters, should they choose to. These individual locales do come fully mapped, but in the case of a few of them, it’s pretty likely that the PCs could attain a map of the region, with no player-friendly version provided. This represents a comfort-detriment for folks like yours truly that suck at drawing maps. It should also be noted that this adventure contains two new magic items, though both, in some way, do influence the narrative, so if you’re curious about them, please consult the next section.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.


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Okay, only GMs around? Great! The first lair to be found deals with a goblin tribe in the middle of internal strife – two months ago, chief and sub-chief killed each other, and indeed, there are currently two factions vying for control over the goblin tribe. As a nice change of pace, PCs who don’t want to murder-hobo through everything may find themselves recruited into a kind of mini-investigation that may see them uncover the truth about how the unique culture of this tribe, which includes ritual bathing [!!] of younglings, was weaponized for the coup-d’état that split the tribe into its current state. As is wont with such scenarios, outsiders like the PCs may well be recruited to end the semi-stalemate between factions.

The second encounter area has some nice horror/dark fantasy-tones: Once an outpost of loathsome bugbears, they have since then been slain by a magical disease that usually only affects those of giant stock, which is particularly likely for half-orcs and similar characters. Only two bugbears remain, both of whom have been transformed into strange horrors. Slaying them has the miasma turn into a kind of entity, which then proceeds to disperse. This scene, alongside the emptied caverns, actually managed to evoke an atmosphere we only rarely get to see executed so well, so kudos for that!

The third encounter area, a noja trading post, is a kind of neutral ground, enforced by a unique statue of a six-armed woman with serpentine lower bodies: The aura of peace makes hostilities here a superbly bad idea, and indeed, veterans may have gleaned that the statue is indeed a marilith – who is not happy about her cursed state. One of the encounter locations does include a magical item, the Tooth of Gorim Graal, which fortifies against fire, but also is the focus for the binding…which could result in a massacre if the PCs find it and proceed to ignore the warnings…and unleashed marilith will not be something the traders, noja, etc. can stop…

There is a similar connection between the penultimate encounter area and the last one – the second unique magic item included would be the Traveling Hammer of Dorin Graybeard, a mighty weapon sacred to dwarves, which, while providing powerful boons, does consume a percentage of the wearer’s treasure collected, and which doesn’t take kind to any bad treatment a dwarf may suffer from the wielder. Which is relevant, for, at one point, the PCs can happen upon a pretty massive dwarven hold that features a portcullis and toll bridge. Obviously, this region is also more focused on roleplaying than on killing everything, which is a nice change of pace.

The final encounter-location is easily by far the most deadly thing contained in the module – “The Snide Dungeon of the Mad Mage Hallach” is basically a gauntlet devised by a mad wizard, one studded with snarky and snide comments delivered via magical means. As such, the PCs and players are warned – this is not a complex to be trifled with, and any casualties are their own fault – well, they had to press onwards, didn’t they? As a gauntlet, it is exceedingly linear and intended as a challenge that requires genuine player skill to beat. It also is a wandering dungeon, that is, it will vanish if the PCs try to whittle it down via repeated sojourns, and could make for a pretty nice 4-hour convention slot game on its own. While challenging, and indeed, in some instances almost sadistic, it always remains fair…though the somewhat random white dragon boss at the end felt like a bit much to me. I just dislike dragons being used as random bosses, but this will not influence my final verdict, as it is part of my personal bias. Then again, the unique magic items noted can be found in its hoard, and the PCs that managed to get this far will have earned the loot.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good, on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ classic two-column b/w-standard, with a few decent b/w-artworks thrown in. The cartography does its job, and I really enjoyed the inclusion of a player-friendly map for the Shadowvein’s environments. It would have been nice to get player-friendly maps for the trade/social encounter areas at least, though. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Joseph Browning’s first part of the exploration of the Shadowvein is a nice subterranean sandbox; in contrast to previous hex-based explorations in the series like “Under Shattered Mountain”, it zooms in a bit more and provides some genuinely fun and diverse locations to visit. I would have enjoyed a few more quest-seeds regarding the respective areas – as written, the loot for the challenge-dungeon represents one of the few connecting components that tie the individual encounter locations together. If you’re looking for a trade route to include into your underworld, one that gets the aesthetics established in books like the ones dealing with a certain scimitar-wielding renegade right, then this delivers. I can see this work well in contexts beyond its system, and while it doesn’t reach the same level of mind-blowing awesomeness as some of the author’s other modules, it does represent a great little adventure. Now, personally, I’d have loved to see more encounters actually atop the Shadowvein, focusing more on the experience of the river itself, but that may be me. All in all, I consider this to be a nice adventure, and as such, my final verdict for this as a stand-alone module will be 4 stars. Please do note, that this also represents a set-up that transitions from more subdued aesthetics towards the ever stranger, its payoffs to a degree featuring in the sequel, so if you plan on going the whole way down the Shadowvein, then consider this to be 4.5 stars, rounded up instead.

Endzeitgeist out.


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***( )( )

This setting supplement clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page acknowledgements, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 53 pages of content – at least in the single-page version. If you prefer e-readers and the like, there is a double-page version of the pdf included as well.

This review was added and moved up in my reviewing queue because I was tasked to review a module set in this setting, and it makes no sense and violates my OCD-tendencies to cover a module without first talking about its backdrop.

Okay, so Scarthey is a magical university, one that sports 4 different Houses that you’re assigned to; there is an orientation, and courses are assigned based on the things you wish to learn. Anyone wishing to study magic can enroll in Scarthey, and among the staff, there are rectors – basically the sanctioned adventurers of the university, which also contain non-casters. As such, this can create an interesting dynamic, as a adventuring group is assumed to consist of a mix of rectors and students.

Archchancellor Gwydion Ambrosius gets a full-page artwork, one that makes him, aptly, look like a cross between Gandalf and Dumbledore – it’s a pretty damn gorgeous piece, and indeed, this is something you realize once you open the pdf for the first time: This is one beautiful book. The pdf sports a parchment-like background with blue highlights and headers and a ton of baroque graphic elements that don’t detract from the text, but rather enhance it – the layout is absolutely stunning and deserves some serious applause.

Scarthey is properly mapped in a solid, if slightly less impressive two-page spread map (one page for the double-page version, obviously), which I’d usually applaud. However, it would have been nice to a) get a player-friendly, unlabeled map (though I can, for once, stomach its absence, considering that campus-maps will be present) and b), the map lacks a scale. As provided, it’s hard to glean how sprawling or cluttered those grounds are supposed to be. The map also, obviously, lacks a grid, so it remains pretty much abstract. Scarthey also seems to have only one means of getting there by land (as noted in the description of the gatehouse), but unfortunately the exact dimensions of where the university is can’t be gleaned from the map.

The description of the individual keyed locales that follows is written in a semi-IC-prose style, reminiscent of the pamphlets you’re handed when enrolling in a new university – “friendly librarian staff under the direction of Professor Raama Tuko” will gladly assist you, though some levels are obviously off-limits for new students – you get the idea. I enjoyed the implementation of this particular narrative conceit. From a prestigious healing house to a bardic school, there are quite a few different components here – at this point, it’s also worth mentioning that quite a few perfectly-chosen pieces of public domain drawings supplement the academy – there are a lot of those inside, and from alchemy tower to artificer’s hall, this section covered a lot of ground – with curious absences: None of the occult classes seem to receive instruction in Scarthey.

Speaking of which: While e.g. stabling is covered with costs for flying mounts and the like per semester, the book, as befitting of its tone, does make mention of e.g. the phantom chariot spell and similar components. This brings me to a crucial thing you need to know:

This supplement, while nominally declared PFRPG-compatible, makes many of Raging Swan Press’ offerings look positively crunchy. It is basically almost bereft of actual rules-relevant material in all but cursory references. No settlement statblock is provided for Scarthey, no feats, traits, spells – nothing in that regard. This also becomes pretty obvious with the staff: A total of 13 different NPCs are presented with a gorgeous artwork, a brief introduction, and a sample quote. The artworks deserve mention, as I did not expect to see so many gorgeous pieces herein. However, we don’t even get an inkling about their alignment and chosen classes – not even a brief “N male human transmuter 14” or the like. This is a bit puzzling to me, considering that the pdf for example does present the structure of the university in a handy two-page spread chart. Speaking of gorgeous two-page spreads – there is a rather impressive two-page artwork that depicts Scarthey, which made me think of Neuschwanstein – just with waterfalls and a gothic architecture hall (that seems weirdly out of place in contrast to the rest of the architecture) added – but that may just be me being a Bavarian.

Rules for conduct in Scarthey are presented alongside a variety of punishments for breaking said rules – these, fyi, remain pretty lenient and enlightened. A total of 4 pages is devoted to the chronology of Scarthey, with banner like headers denoting the respective year – I mention this, because the banners, while gorgeous, take up quite a bunch of space, and some people are irked by the like.

After this, we are guided through the process of choosing a house – and oddly, here we do get stats for the chancellor’s crown of casting, which only enhances your Intelligence by +2 and nets you a bonus equal to your HD to concentration checks. It comes with construction notes – and as you could glean, is just a reskin of the headband of vast intelligence +2, one that fails to note the skill-component correctly, and one that is mispriced rather severely, as its additional benefit should have increased its base price – it costs the same as a headband. It also kinda made me think that it’s weird that a school of magic can’t afford a better item for its most prestigious positions.

Anyway, we do get information on the 4 houses, which all feature their own absolutely stunning crests, with house master, motto, alignment, values, beliefs and mascot briefly noted – but we don’t get to know about total strength of the like. Each house comes with its own campaign trait; these are okay, but e.g. ignoring up to 3 rounds of staggered is probably preferable to +1 Diplomacy and getting it as a class skill. As an aside, in the latter case, the trait is missing its bonus type.

The pdf continues to talk about wizard supplies and takes another cue from the Harry Potter franchise, in that it presents a variant of wand-based casting – personalized wands can allow you to ignore up to 25 gp worth of material components, and casting without one makes you increase spell failure chance. This is per se a cool notion, but one that would have needed to be supplemented by rules that explain how metamagic, options that ignore somatic casting and the like are balanced within the context of the modified wand-engine. It is a nice notion, but one that will not survive contact with an experienced group of rules-savvy players.

After very brief write-ups of a tavern and some extracurricular activities (like dragon boat rowing!) that could have used more crunchy representations to make them engaging mini-games, the pdf closes. The rowing game does have a touch of crunch sprinkled in, but to me, remained somewhat opaque.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level they are solid regarding the presentation, but less exciting regarding the underlying design. Layout, as noted, is GORGEOUS and provides a unique identity to the supplement. I really enjoyed this quasi-baroque aesthetic employed within, and a surprising amount of gorgeous full-color artworks and well-chosen public-domain art, initials and the like make this one beautiful book. Seriously. The cartography’s utility does not live up to the beauty of the artwork or layout, alas, and no unlabeled version is included. Unfortunately, there are two components here that must be mentioned. Neither of the two versions has any bookmarks, which makes navigation a colossal pain. Additionally, printing this, in the absence of a printer-friendly version, will be a massive drain on your ink and toner-resources.

More important, and jarring: This book takes the same grating approach as Wayward Rogues Publishing: You can’t highlight or search ANY TEXT in this file. Every page is basically an artwork. Combined with the lack of bookmarks, this renders the pdf a huge pain to navigate, and if you want to create a GM-cheat-sheet, you’ll be copying text by hand. URGHH. Particularly for a setting supplement that provides an overview of a region/organization/etc., this is utterly grating.

Bob Storrar and Rodney Sloan provide a very vanilla experience regarding a wizard school here – if you expected intricate notes on courses, an engine to acquire spells or feats or the like, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Then again, considering the gripes I had with the few pieces of crunch within, this may have been a wise decision. Depending on how you look at it, the fact that this book doesn’t really integrate the rich lore of PFRPG and casting traditions into its framework may be a bug or a feature – if you expected to see truly unique and potent faculty members with stats, well, then I’d probably recommend Drop Dead Studios’ “Wizard’s School” sandbox/mega-adventure/bestiary instead.

If you, however, wanted a Harry Potter-style wizard’s academy with very enlightened tenets and an overall wholesome appeal, then Scarthey may be more up your alley.

To make that abundantly clear: Scarthey’s main problem is not the fact that it’s so fluff-centric; my main gripe, apart from the atrociously grating experience of actually trying to use the pdf, is that it remains solely concerned with the surface level. So, necromancy’s heavily sanctioned. Okay, how? No idea. You can’t cast death magic. There is a great hospital, got ya- how do they research these afflictions that are not easily curable with magic? Quarantine measures? The book never dives beyond a surface level – “this is here.”

Okay, understood – how does it work? Well you won’t find the answers within.

While beautiful, the layout, at times, with its copious artworks, almost felt like it attempted to make up for the lack of depth regarding the information provided. Ultimately, the text probably could have been jammed into a book half the size of this one. This would be fine as well – but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel that I wasn’t comfortable running this as written. The supplement lacks so much information regarding depth that I can’t help but feel that I simply don’t know enough about Scarthey to run it for a prolonged time.

And this is a genuine pity, for this book, in spite of its shortcomings, does not feel phoned in. It is a book into which, when all is said and done, showcases energy, time and genuine passion. For me as a person, this represents a failure – while I admired the aesthetics (I really did!), I want more depth from my supplements. At the same time, I can understand and easily conceive of people for whom this would be amazing. There hence are two opposing points of view that can be contrasted with one another, and there’s no reconciliation between them. Do you want mechanical and narrative depth? Then this doesn’t have much to offer. Do you want a stylish pdf that executes its notion of being basically a “start of the semester pamphlet” rather well? Then this may well be fun for you and yours!

Usually, this’d mean that the book ends up somewhere in the middle of my rating system, probably on the upper end – however, this also is one of the most inconvenient, asinine pdfs to actually use I’ve seen in quite a while. The combination of the lack of any form of bookmarks AND the fact that you can’t even cut-copy-paste text together renders this pretty much unusable without an e-reader. And that is a huge no-go for me. Hence, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the impressive work that went into the overall presentation. If rated for its content alone, you should probably detract at least another star.

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This Star Log.EM-installment 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!

On the introductory page, we get a pretty massive subtype graft that grants kami immunity to bleed, polymorph and mind-affecting effects, resistance 10 to three energy types, as well as CR-based telepathy. Additionally, they designate a ward, which may be a creature, location or object. The kami may merge with the ward and share senses as a standard action, and emerge just the same way. Nice: This takes mounting wards into account regarding size category implications. While within 120 feet of the ward, the kami gets its CR as fast healing. If merged with the ward and the ward dies, so does the kami (no save!); if the ward dies while the kami is not merged with it, the kami instead becomes permanently sickened until establishing a new ward, which takes a full year! They also get ward empathy, making its starting attitude to respectively qualifying beings or those that inhabit the ward very positive. Nice framework!

Beyond a pretty massive and well-written piece of fluff, this supplement contains three different kami statblocks: At CR 1, we have the kokugami, a diminutive kami based on the expert array, capable of firing beams of sonic energy. The ray has no range noted, which is a bit annoying. That being said, I do like that the kami has unique abilities that reward merging with the host, allowing the kami to accept Constitution damage to reduce damage incurred by the host to nonlethal. And no, it can’t be cheesed. They also enhance the host’s healing while resting. Nice, can I have one? Minor nitpick: The statblock is missing its fast healing 1 defensive ability line.

At CR 10, the torijigami uses the combatant array, and treats its weapons as though they had the holy fusion – erroneously referred to as “infusion” here and not italicized. This fellow has no unique ward-twists. KAC isn’t properly bolded.

Finally, the CR 25 hozonsugami kami would be a bit odd, in that its CR is incorrect – it is clearly a CR 15 creature regarding EAC and KAC, Hit Points, etc., not, as noted, a CR 25 critter. It can fire rays of cosmic radiation that also cause radiation (severity rating would have been nice…), and it has a couple of cool tweaks –like the ability to attract meteorites to bombard nearby targets. They can also use their SPs while merged with the ward. On a nitpicky side, the save-names of this one aren’t properly bolded.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting can still be considered to be good on a formal and rules-language level, but e.g. the CR glitch is nasty, and the formatting oversights for the statblocks are uncommon to see in Everyman Gaming/Everybody Games’ offerings. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the artwork included is nice. If it made you expect a starship-sized kami, you’ll be disappointed, though. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ kami are inspired in their concepts and ideas, but also, alas, slightly rushed regarding their formal criteria. While certainly not bad, a few of the formal glitches could confuse less experienced GMs. All in all, a cool, but also somewhat rushed-feeling supplement, resulting in a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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***( )( )

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series 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!

After a brief, flavorful introduction to space goblins within the context of the Xa-Osoro system, we kick off this pdf with the Best-Gob paragon archetype, which requires, obviously, that the character in question is a space goblin. This archetype nets the best-gob Skill Focus with Engineering at 2nd level as an alternate class feature. At 11th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the insight bonus increases by 1. Additionally, at 4th, 6th, 12th and 19th level, you may take any feat with the goblinoid subtype as a prerequisite as a replacement class feature bonus feat.

The pdf also presents 12 new feats (which will probably bring a smile to plenty of PFRPG-veterans):

-Burn! Burn! Burn!: +1 insight bonus to attack with fire damage dealing attacks; additionally, when attacking with a non-fire damage dealing spell or attack, you can convert half damage into fire damage. Depending on your campaign’s power-level, this may warrant scrutiny, as this can render regular weaponry better than dual damage type equivalents. I’d ban this in my game.

-Everything is UBPS: This is cool: It lets you expend items when using Engineering to craft or repair as if they were UBPs worth 90% base price; broken items still yield 50% UBPs. Cool!

-Expanded Tinkering: Use a move action to affect an ally’s weapon in reach; the weapon may not eb broken, which nets +4d6 damage for single-target weapons, +2d6 for AoE weaponry (which, I assume, includes automatic weapons); this only applies to the next attack, and at the start of your next round, the weapon becomes broken. Not a big fan of this conversion.

-Explosive Resistance: +2 to AC and to saves vs. blast and explode weapons and AoE effect spells. This doubles against “attacks and spells that you use.” Not sure what that means – proficiency? Ability to cast them? Effects that originate from the character? This could be a bit smoother.

-Get Into Everything: +2 to Strength checks to break stuff; also adds a racial bonus to Improved Combat Maneuver (sunder), if you have it. The feat also allows you to make Engineering checks to pinpoint weak points in a construction, with DC scaling based on item level. Nice one!

-Goblin Song: Language-based swift action demoralize versus a target, potentially affecting allies of the target within 30 ft., though the Intimidate check is harder for these secondary targets. Nice: Has proper menacing gaze expertise talent synergy.

-Improved Tinker: When using the tinker racial trait, ignore broken condition for 1d4 rounds, after which an object ceases to work for 10 minutes. Nice one, and kudos for the anti-abuse caveat!

-Junkomancer Adept: Technomancer feat that increases CL for spells with “junk” or “bot” in the name by +2 for the purpose of duration, and fabricate scrap becomes more potent. The spell-reference is not italicized properly, though.

-Junkomancer Expert: This one builds on the previous one, and modifies the cache capacitor. The spells list can be cast at will, but their effects end after 24 hours. Interesting!

-Jury Rigging: Lets you create a fragile repaired version of an item. Fragile? Yep, this may make your weapons break rather easily – the property is noted here. That being said, this lacks e.g. the precision and differentiation of the excellent jury-rigging rules presented in this very series. I strongly suggest using Star Log.EM: Jury-Rigging Rules instead.

-Master Junker: Move 10 ft. through difficult terrain as if it were normal terrain, but only for non-natural difficult terrain. Also nets you a +1 untyped bonus to Engineering checks to identify creatures, recall knowledge and craft or repair technological items.

-Unexpected Critical (Combat): When you attack with a broken weapon you used tinker racial trait on, and your attack roll’s result is a 19, you may spend 1 Resolve Point to treat the attack as a critical hit, but only if you’d hit the target with the 19. On a hit, you deal double damage and trigger any critical effects of the weapon, but at the end of the turn, the weapon is destroyed.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a rules-language and formal level, and the pdf comes with a nice artwork. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jacob McKiernan’s space goblin options are interesting, ranging from the very clever to the slightly less exciting – the material basically takes old PFRPG material and re-contextualizes it. All in all, I consider this to be a nice expansion for space goblin fans, but wasn’t too impressed with quite a few of the feats within. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform – recommended if you were a fan of PFRPG’s goblins, but otherwise, not the strongest offering in the product line.

Endzeitgeist out.


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This installment of the Starfarer Adversaries-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The bounty hunter herein comes in three iterations, all of which are human soldiers – the rookie (CR 4), the regular one (CR 8) and the veteran (CR 12). The builds make use of the Spell Bane feat and the bounty hunter theme; the latter being a welcome, if unusual deviation from the straight application of class grafts here, as far as I’m concerned.

The builds seem to be missing the -2 adjustment to Reflex save mandated by the class graft, though. As far as fighting styles are concerned, we have the bombard here, and grenade expert noted separately. As an early offering, there are some deviations in the notation of statblocks here – damage, for example, is not abbreviated, but instead lists e.g. “piercing” fully, and the formatting of grenades does differ from the one used in e.g. the Alien Archives. Interesting, if not correctly formatted – the builds use entangling weapon fusions for grenades. Similarly, the fly speed the two more potent builds receive should note that it’s derived from a jetpack.

Conclusion:
Editing is very good on a formal, and good on a rules-language level; as far as formatting is concerned, we have quite a few deviations from the standard. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork provided is rather charmingly reminiscent of silver age comic book books. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jacob Blackmon nets a couple of solid and usable, if not perfect soldier statblocks here. Very much an NPC Codex-style offering, they provide some rank-and-file fodder for your PCs to struggle against. All in all, a decent, if not mind-blowing offering. The installment covering Thugs was much better and offered more. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

The Wraith clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s check out this fellow!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters and readers.

The wraith-class is proficient with simple weapons, scythes and light armor, has 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, d8 HD, and is a Mid-Caster using Charisma as governing spellcasting ability modifier, with a spell pool of class level + Charisma modifier spell points per day. The class has a ¾ BAB-progression, as well as good Reflex- and Will-saves. On a cosmetic note: Rows 1-7 and all save columns of the class table lack the plusses before BAB and save values, respectively. This should really have been caught. It’s evident at one glance. Magic talents are gained whenever the wraith gains a caster level increase.

1st level provides a haunt path, which acts akin to bloodlines and similar abilities with a linear progression array: At 1st level, these paths grant the listed path sphere or talent from the sphere if you already have it, and for these class level is treated as CL. 2nd level nets the path possession ability of the path, with 8th and 14th level providing the improved and greater path possession abilities, respectively; at 4th level, we add ½ class level as insight bonus to a listed skill. Unless I have miscounted, there are a total of 9 paths provided (as an aside – the excellent Sanguinist’s Handbook does have a path as well!).

In all brevity: The Path of the ancestor is aligned with the Protection sphere, and allows the character to act as a buff/beneficial entity, including (aegis) talents at higher levels. Anima is associated with Nature or Weather, and allows the character to possess natural material, creating elemental-style and use talents associated with the elements; higher levels also unlock plants. Associated with Death, the Path of the Corruptor lets you possess dead bodies (as though reanimate-d) and later undead. The Path of the Despoiler, also for the Death sphere, lets you possess vermin and attract/generate swarms to possess – nice!

Path of the Cryptid is associated with animal possession and Alteration, providing shapeshift (not properly formatted) synergy; the path of the poltergeist lets you possess unattended objects, and as such, is obviously (for veteran sphere-users) associated with Telekinesis, though it s limitations are based on Enhancement’s Animate Objects. Higher levels allow for construct possession and possessing multiple objects at once, generating a construct swarm! OUCH! The Path of the Phantasm is associated with Illusion, and becomes more potent versus targets in illusions – with higher levels providing means to bypass immunities and safeguards. The Path of the Spook is basically a terror-inducing option, with the Mind-sphere as associated path sphere, and penalties to saves versus Mind sphere effects.

At 1st level, we have wraith form, which lets you, as a move action (ending it is free) for class level + casting ability modifier rounds, gain the incorporeal subtype with some modifications, including a slowly descending, but perfectly maneuverable gliding speed – and yep, if you’re going the high-fantasy route, there are optional rules for you here. In case you need a bullet point summary of the modified incorporeal state, a handy sidebar lists it all. The capstone btw. delimits wraith form and refunds previously spent class talents (so-called “wraith haunts”; more on those below) that modified the ability.

But we’ve been talking a lot about possession in the brief list of paths, so how does it work? At 2nd level, you may possess a creature in natural reach as a standard action as a mind-affecting possession effect. The challenge rating of the creature governs the possession duration, with guidelines for companions and the like provided. The target may resist this attempt with a Will save based on DC 10 + ½ class level + casting ability modifier. There are two types of possession: Passive and active. Passive possession grants no control over the target, and an attempt to passively possess a target costs a spell point. The wraith maintains his mental ability score modifiers, BAB, alignment, mental abilities, extraordinary abilities not derived from his physical form, combat talents, supernatural abilities and magical abilities including spells, sphere abilities and SPs. If the host is dazed, stunned or unconscious, the wraith can control the body as though via active possession. Passive possession MAY go unnoticed if the wraith is sneaky!

Active possession entails the full hijacking of the target, retaining the boy’s physical ability score, natural and automatic abilities. Extra limbs don’t allow the wraith to make more attacks, and 6th level needs to be attained to trigger extraordinary abilities, 12th for supernatural ones. Active possession also imposes stringent level caps on when the respective combat talents, sphere abilities etc. may be accessed. Any time the wraith would force the actively possessed target to do something against their nature, they may make a saving throw attempt to end the possession. Self-harm or suicidal actions are not possible via wraith possession. This type of possession also btw. costs a spell point. A target that ends or resists a possession increases the spell point cost for further such attempts by 1, stacking with itself, thus discouraging wraiths from trying to spam-possess the same target. Here’s the cool thing: As a move action, the wraith may change an active possession into a passive one and vice versa – unwilling targets get a save to resist this change. Beyond the different details, there is another reason to switch possession types – time. The duration of different types of possession differs between active and passive possession, even differentiating between willing and unwilling targets! (And yes, the rules-language gets this right.) And before you ask: Yes, the rules do cover the possession of unconscious targets. Wraiths may end possessions as a free or immediate action, appearing adjacent to the possessed target, and the wraith may expend a round of wraith form to manifest in his incorporeal (and less squishy) form. Careful: Mind-affecting effects targeting the possessed body don’t just end for the wraith jumping ship, and immunities, if any, are not shared!

At 6th, 12th, 16th and 18th level, progressively more knowledge of the host body’s capabilities are unearthed to the wraith – oh, and guess what? We have Dreamscarred Press-psionics synergy. If possession seems complex, the because it system-immanently is, but a handy table does help you keep track of active possession effects. 10th level provides Greater Possession, which allows the wraith to retain control over a possessed target while jumping to another, and the wraith may divide actions between possessed targets! This is kickass and really, really cool! The wraith can “only” possess up to casting ability modifier, minimum 2, creatures at one time.

At 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, we have wraith haunts – basically the talent array of the class, which, if requiring a save, employ 10 + ½ class level + casting ability modifier to calculate DCs. As mentioned before, there are talents that enhance wraith form, allowing for e.g. immediate action concealment, for rounds per day and the like. We have Technology Guide synergy (cool!) as well as a properly gated always on flight. There is an option for willing possessions to grant Silent and Still spellcasting for serious Stealth/infiltration synergy, and options to phase through objects and walls (awesome!). Possession is something folks remember, so if you’d rather have them forget that, well, there’s a haunt for that as well! Wraith form may be shared and even, with a follow-up haunt, be forcefully applied to adversaries AoE Intimidate (with Spheres of Might synergy) and enhancement-sharing – these talents surprised me in how creative they apply a wide variety of benefits!

Favored class options are provided alongside two feats – one nets you an additional wraith haunt, while the other enhances your possession for multiclass characters. There are three casting traditions and a martial tradition included.

The pdf also includes 4 archetypes: The Draugr loses wraith form and replaces it with basically being a blended training Spheres of Might-crossover archetype with rage and the Berserker sphere, with rage sharing and a properly-themed ability array replacing the usual haunt path. The Mistshade is interesting, in that it replaces wraith form with becoming mist – this form prohibits certain actions, but allows for the creation of mist beyond the wraith’s form, better flight, squeezing through holes, etc. – it’s an interesting change of the class paradigm. The Swarmheart, you guessed it, replaces wraith form with the means to discorporate into swarms in a variation of e.g. Swarm transformation, which is btw. also accounted for regarding prerequisites. The archetype gets a couple of solid, exclusive haunts. The Unbodied, finally, is a means to let a perished character contribute – they are locked in wraith form, taking damage while not possessing a target, and no, this damage can’t be healed! If slain, the character becomes a mindless haunt; as such, the archetype also accounts for limited possession at 1st level, with higher levels allowing for the limited assumption of corporeal form, and the capstone providing the means to reassume proper form.

Ninja, (unchained) rogue and slayer may elect to become ghost steppers, losing sneak attack and3 talents/tricks in favor of wraith form, with options to gain a spell pool via talents and the ability to take wraith haunts. The pdf also contains the spirit blade armorist archetype, which is massive: A blended training archetype that “has the Fortitude and Will saving throw progression of the Incanter” (read: Bad Fortitude saving throws, good Will saving throws) and the shapechanger subtype at 1st level. Instead of summon equipment, we have the ability to assume the form of a weapon, counting always as attended, becoming a weapon that may then possess the wielder, using their actions to direct the wielder’s body! This basically allows you to play one part of a kinda-gestalt-y character, which is a truly unique experience! Particularly since higher levels allow for BAB-sharing, directed AoOs, teamwork feat sharing and the like – while very powerful and not for every campaign or group, I adore this archetype. It’s complex, deadly and utterly unique in its premise. It also spans multiple pages, coming with its own massive array of haunts. Yes, this class hack could have carried a base class of its own. Really like it. And it seems like the author agreed, for we not only get a sample NPC for the wraith class, but also for this cool archetype! (Both at CR 5, fyi.)

The book closes with an appendix containing the rules for incorporeity and swarms for your convenience.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are not perfect, but can be considered to be good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the class juggles impressive high-complexity tricks I genuinely enjoyed seeing. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artwork provided is neat.

Andrew Stoeckle is a force to be reckoned with as a designer – slowly but steadily, he has garnered, at least with me, a reputation for never shying away from mechanically-creative and compelling, complex top-tier difficulty designs that few designers can pull off reliably. The wraith is another example where he flexes his design muscles in a way that, in spite of the system’s age, manages to be fresh and novel – there literally is no other class that does what the wraith does, let alone this precise. That being said, playtest has shown that the wraith *can* be pretty potent, depending on the skill of the players and overall party composition, but this is not an issue or fault of the class, and instead can be construed to be rooted in the system-immanent nature of the concepts presented. In short: Not the fault of the class. In an interesting change of pace, this power does not stem from an escalation of numbers, but from creativity – the wraith is a class that thrives in the hands of players thinking in terms of breadth and creativity, rather than just a min-maxing of numbers, and as such, presents a power level (and means to control it, if required) that I genuinely enjoy seeing. While the formal criteria of the file could be a bit tighter (CAB not bolded in one statblock and other minor snafus), this nonetheless is a genuinely cool and worthwhile addition to the roster of spheres-options, and as such, will receive a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up, with my seal of approval added for good measure. Well done indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This installment of the Starfarer Adversaries-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Fans of Dark Sun (and/or its Ravenloft spinoff domain) will know what to expect here – an slimy, slick creature with no visible eyes or ears, but a lamprey-like mouth – and the hands of these horrors similarly contain such maws. Build-wise, the saline horror in SFRPG is a CR 6 creature using the expert array. The monstrous humanoid graft has been properly applied, attack and damage-values check out, SPs list their proper DCs, and the creature has a signature attack, which it can use to drain immobilized or grabbed targets of their saline, inflicting Constitution damage. Even its scent-based tracking and blindsense have been properly noted. And yes, we get a one-page handout-style version of the artwork.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no formal or rules-language-related glitches. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork provided is nice and icky. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jacob Blackmon delivers a nice critter here – nothing to really complain about, save that it’d have been nice to get a second statblock or some other form of supplemental material. Still, all in all, a worthwhile addition to the SFRPG-roster, which, at $1.95, is certainly worth its fair asking price. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This installment of the so far absolutely amazing Occult Skill Guide-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 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.

So, on the introductory page, we already have something I genuinely enjoyed seeing, namely a more diversified take on addiction. As you all know, Starfinder treats drug addiction as a disease that progresses each time a drug is taken. Which, come to think of it, doesn’t always make sense – addictions certainly develop when a drug is consumed, but withdrawal effects occur from abstinence, and not indulgence. As such, the pdf presents a variant for addiction as a disease (drug use). Save and track are specified by the respective drug, while the effect is as follows: Every 1d6 days, the victim must attempt a saving throw against the disease, with the DC equal to the drug the victim is addicted to, +2 for every time the victim consumed the drug within the last 7 days. On a failed save the victim progresses from the latent to to impaired, to a maximum of weakened. Each hour, the victim attempts a new save progressing to the next step on a failed save. This continues until the victim uses the specified drug or succeeds on 3 consecutive saving throws, after which the addiction reverts to the latent stage for 1d6 days.

Each addiction starts as a minor addiction, and on 3 failed consecutive saving throws, progresses to moderate,, and after that, we reach severe. These have new maximum steps to progress to. Cure is noted as well. This is pretty elegant, in that it presents a frame-work that is easy to tweak – the cooldown in days, the penalty to the DC – all components that can be tackled on their own. Plus, for gritty games, this allows you to portray the effects of addiction decoupled from individual drugs, or in conjunction with individual drugs. Speaking of which: This framework does work smoothly in conjunction with the awesome item-level scaling drug-rules presented in the phenomenal Pop Culture Catalog: Vice Dens.

Now, as before, this is a stand-alone book: All the rules required to introduce corruptions into your game have been provided in this pdf, and since I’ve explained them already, I will refrain from doing so again – suffice to say, they are damn cool, one could call them…addictive. See what I did there? ;)

The Cannibal corruption is associated with Will as save and Wisdom as the relevant ability score modifier, and the source is obvious here: The target has partaken in sapient flesh of their own race, either willingly or unwillingly due to wendigo psychosis or sadistic compulsions. As far as save DCs are concerned, they scale with the corruption’s victim’s level and start at DC 13 and progress to 19, with each stage tracking its save DC increases separately, making the progression per se less burst-like and more steady.

Wait. You don’t have rules for wendigo psychosis? Well, guess what! We have a unique simple template graft to create wendigo creatures, including howl, properly codified airwalking (based on a supernatural equivalent of force soles) and the psychosis codified as a proper curse! But let us get back to the corruption: You progress through it whenever you consume sapient (properly-codified, fyi!) meat – 1d6 corruption points; if the target consumed is of your own race, it’s 1d20 corruption points for you! The latent stage also nets an addiction to consuming the flesh of creatures of their own race, and latent stage nets Cannibalistic Euphoria – which provides a bonus to an ability score of your choice for 10 minutes, which doesn’t stack with augmentations whenever you consume flesh of your own species. Higher corruption stages increase this bonus. At this point, simply abstaining from meat-consumption for long enough (provided the addiction lets you!) suffices to cure this. At Stage 1, consuming flesh of your species also heals you with a scaling mystic cure, with higher levels and corruption stages also adding remove condition/affliction to the roster of benefits. Sure you want to get rid of this?

Stage 2 nets you proficiency with entangle, grapple., gravitational, mire, throttle and trip weapons, or +1 to atk or save DCs/skill check DCs related to them, if you already are proficient…gotta hunt your meat, Hills Have Eyes IN SPACE!!!-style. At stage 3, only death and a proper cleansing ritual before resurrection may revert the horrific corruption the character has underwent. This also provides some serious benefits – including skill ranks, bonus feats, and means to stay in the fight – basically, at this point, you’re almost Jason. And before you ask, yes, the rules of the corruption are presented in a way that lets you apply it to NPCs without much hassle.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the series elegant two-column full-color standard, and the artwork featured is neat, and an original full-color piece. Kudos: The pdf is fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity.

Alexander Augunas’ cannibal corruption kicks behind and takes names; the entire Occult Skill Guide series so far has been nothing but a joy to review, and this is is no different. Corruptions are an amazing concept, and how the author manages to portray the lure that their powers offer, while contrasting them with nasty detriments, is awesome. This is role-playing gold, and I seriously recommend getting all of them, particularly if you’re as excited as I am for e.g. Grimmerspace, for which these pdfs imho make a natural fit. All in all, a great offering, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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