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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This book clocks in at 105 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of index and artist credits (nice!), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 96 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book, and it was also requested by my supporters. The review is based on the 2nd printing-version, with the 1st-edition errata included, as I want to reward authors that care and improve their offerings and revise the actual books, instead of slapping an errata file in an obscure corner of the world wide web or in an extra file. An important note right away: This book really embraces PFRPG’s first edition, including the later hardcovers: This book does support material from Occult Adventures, Ultimate Intrigue, Ultimate Wilderness, etc.

Okay, so after a brief introduction, we dive into the 3 new base classes presented herein, the first being the elementer, who receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and a custom proficiency list that includes simple weapons, glaive, starknife, greatswords, longbows and more; regarding armor, we have proficiency with light armor and shields (minus tower shields); as an arcane spellcaster who receives spells of up to 6th level, using Intelligence as a governing ability score and a spellbook; we have a prepared caster, with the spellbooks for preparation codified as those of the magus and wizard. Of course, light armor incurs no arcane spell failure. Regarding spells, the class uses, no surprise there, an elemental focus; as such, it properly defines elemental spells, which are properly classified in the custom spell-list of the class and codified in the class. 3rd level nets +1 damage per die rolled with elemental spells and spell twists; more on spell twists later.

The class uses an energy pool with a maximum equal to class level + Intelligence modifier (minimum 1), and starts the day with half that pool filled, rounded down. When the elementer casts an elemental spell of 1st level or higher, or uses a spell twist. They gain class level spells; as a standard action that does not provoke AoOs, they can sacrifice any number of prepared elemental spells, gaining half the amount of energy points of the total spell levels. These points cannot be gained while the character is in aegis form. Wait aegis form? Yeah, but we should first talk more about the spellcasting engine of this fellow, because it is surprisingly novel for a game as well-trod and broad as PFRPG.

You see, if you take a look at the spell lists, you’ll notice that, in spite of the class only getting spellcasting of up to 6th spell level, the spell list reaches 9th level. So how can that be? A nerf gone wrong? Nope. 6th level nets the fusion spell-like ability, which allows the elementer to chosoe a single element from the classic 4 western elements, with an additional element unlocked at 19th, 14th and 18th level. When preparing spells, spell slots may be fused to prepare a spell from that elemental category. The slots need to be combined, and require a higher value; to prepare a 2nd level spell using lower level spell slots requires 3 spell levels; an 8th level spell would cost a massive 15 spell levels; however, the ability only allows for the fusion of spells that the elementer can prepare.

Metamagic may not be applied, and the chosen element has a somewhat different array of rules: The curious reader will have noticed that the above caveat actually would prevent fusing spells of above 6th level, but the chosen elements adheres to different rules: The elementer can fuse spells of up half their class level, rounded down, of all the elements chosen

The spellcasting engine also offers quite a few unique offerings for the spellcasting engine, represented by an array of so-called spell twists, starting with 2 spell twists gained at 2nd level, and an additional one gained every three levels thereafter; these spell twists have associated elemental categories, and to use them, the elementer has to sacrifice a prepared spell of the associated element of 1st level or higher; spell twists with the “All” category are exempt from this restriction, but are the exception from the rule. A spell twist is a spell-like ability and used as a standard action, with a save DC of 10 + sacrificed spell slot’s level + intelligence modifier; the spell twists can be boosted, so if a spell level of a higher level than 1st is used, the effect tends to be better beyond the DC-increase implied by the formula: Increased damage, additional targets, etc. The spell twist array is btw. interesting: For water, we have, for example, the expected cold damage, but with the Drown spell twist also nonlethal damage + change of staggering on a failed save. Suffice to say, the ability is phrased in a precise manner and accounts for unbreathing or water-breathing targets. And yes, spells prepared in higher spell slots are accounted for. Now, this spontaneous spell-conversion into (usually) blasting/minor crowd control effects is per se neato, but actually comes with yet another interesting effect, namely that spell twists also grant energy pool points.

Let’s talk about the defenses of the class for a bit; 2nd level nets evasion, 12th level improved evasion, and 4th level nets a barrier consisting of an energy resistance pool that begins with a value of 10 and increases by another 10 every 3 levels thereafter, capping at 60; these may be freely assigned to the classic 4 energy damage types associated with the elements (acid, cold, electricity, fire) whenever the character prepares their spells. This class feature becomes more interesting at 9th level, where, whenever the elementer manages to negate energy damage (taking 0 damage due to resistance/immunity, or evasion), every 20 points of damage negated lets them regain 1 energy point. This *does* work while in aegis form, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. 15th level increases the barrier’s effectiveness, granting immunity to damage types if at least 30 points are assigned in the barrier.

We already mentioned aegis. Yeah, elementers begin play with the ability to wrap themselves in elemental power as a swift action. Assuming aegis form costs one energy point, and the elementer gets an untyped (not a fan…why not codify these bonuses properly?) bonus on attack rolls, AC and CMD, and the elementer’s weapons count as magic for the purpose of overcoming DR; the bonuses increase at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, capping at +6 at 17th level. In aegis form, the elementer cannot cast spells, use spell trigger or spell completion items, or gain points in the energy pool. Aegis can be ended as a free action and ends when energy points drop to 0; aegis can only be entered at the end of the character’s next turn, which is a clever cycling block. Smart design right there.

But there is another rather important unique ability, namely the supernatural ability Affinity, which is gained at 1st level; when the elementer prepares spells, they choose a single lesser affinity power, which can be accessed in aegis form only; at 6th, 11th and 16th level let the elementer choose a moderate, greater and master affinity power. These, however, are NOT simply available in aegis form; instead, moderate affinity power requires spending 2 energy points when entering aegis form AND that the character keeps spending these 2 points per round. Greater powers cost 4, and master powers require a cost of 6 points of consistent and initiation costs; and here the cycle-caveat comes into place, because the elementer MUST pay the costs or end the aegis. So, if you start a 4-point aegis to access greater affinity powers and below, you need to keep paying that, or end aegis and re-enter it at a lower cost, but minus access to the greater affinity power. As usually, affinity powers are categorized in the 4 classic elements, with save DCs, if applicable, at DC 10 + ½ class level + Intelligence modifier. At 7th level, the elementer can, as a free action exchange affinity powers for a new array; usable 1/day, +1/day at 13th and 19th, but this exchange may only be used once per round, regardless of daily uses.

The lesser affinity powers generally grant scaling damage increases that stack with the associated elemental weapon special abilities; for example, the bonus fire damage added to your weapon with the searing heat lesser affinity power stack with flaming. The moderate powers tend to focus on movement and defense and include, for example, fly speed (which makes sense at the level it unlocks), miss chance versus ranged weapons, etc.; the greater affinity powers include defensive fire, temporary hit point armors, etc.; master affinity powers are auras and include noise-drowning winds, damaging churning ground etc. There is something I VERY much appreciate regarding these affinity powers: They reward focusing on elements, for every single affinity power has synergy effects that increase the potency of the powers when you choose to focus on a selection from one element. For example, the aforementioned temporary hit point armor granted by a moderate water affinity power, the temporary hit points start replenishing, and the replenishing hit points stack with themselves. The capstone lets half their elemental damage bypass resistances and immunities, excluding the elementer’s own, and elemental spells and spell twists that deal physical damage ignore all DR except DR/-.

The elementer, as a whole, is a class that thematically shouldn’t interest me; it’s a powerful elemental knight-type character who is really potent regarding nova-ing. HOWEVER, when you’re playing in a game where the GM can properly discourage nova-casting (not that hard, imo), it is one grand experience; the switch of modes between spell twists and aegis rewards oscillating roles; the class chassis makes sure that you still matter if you choose to nova, but don't actually WANT to nova, which is SMART; the degree of spellcasting flexibility and tweak of the classic system generate a surprisingly rewarding playstyle that works better than it looks on paper. This is a genuinely good elemental class; I wouldn’t recommend it for ultra-gritty games, but I do very much enjoy it. The design is certainly smooth, elegant, and as a whole, very well-considered. 

The second class would be the invokers, who gain d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields (excluding tower shields), full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves.  3rd level and every 6 levels thereafter net a bonus combat feat.

The class gets a spirit companion, who gains d6 HD, starting with 2 HD and increasing that up to 15 HD at 20th level; the spirit companion’s BAB adheres to a 3/4-progression, mirroring HD; good saves (Reflex and Will saves) scale up marginally better than for the phantom, kicking off at +3, and capping at +10; the bad save (Fort) cap at +5; the companion starts off at 12 skill ranks and 1 feat, increasing that up to 98 ranks and 8 feats; natural armor bonus +1 is gained at 2nd level, and scales up to +12; also at 2nd level, the companion gains a +1 bonus to Dexterity and Wisdom, scaling up to +8; AT 4th, 9th, 14th and 20th level, we have an ability score increase of +1. The spirit companion has low-light vision and gains spontaneous spellcasting governed by Wisdom of up to 4th spell level, using the custom invoker spell-list, with limited spells known. 5th level provides a spell slot that can be chosen from the invoker’s currently invoked spirits, even if the spell is not known to the companion. They can be metamagically enhanced. 7th level nets devotion, so the usual +4 morale bonus vs. enchantment spells and effects.

The spirit also starts play with the spell-like ability spirit blast, which it, as a standard action, can fire a close range ranged touch attack, and deals 1d6 damage per 2 HD of the spirit (so 1d6 at first level, since it starts off with 2 HD), and adds Wisdom modifier; the blast can’t be Vital Strike’d, but does count as a weapon for the purposes of feats; SR applies. Now, there is more to the spirit companion than this framework, but the rules for this are outsourced, since they apply to spirits in general; as a minor point of criticism, I think noting the respective unlocks of these global spirit rules in the spirit companion table as well would have been a rather helpful/convenient decision.

The spirit companion is, base-type-wise, a fey, and, as hinted at before, it, like all other spirits, are defined by the dominion and oath; dominions would be land, beasts, sea, etc., while oaths describe the role of the spirit companion in relation to that dominion. While we get a decent array of dominions, only three oaths are provided: Acolyte (spellcasting), guardian (tougher) and harbinger (more damage). Oaths grant minor power increases at 4th, 10th and 16th level, and the oath also influences the invoker’s 7th level ability, Avatar (Su), which is a merge of invoker and companion initiated as a full-round action. In this form, the invoker can cannibalize spell slots of the companion for spirit energy pool points, and also gains abilities based on the oath and dominion chosen. This form lasts for Charisma modifier minutes, until ended (swift action), or slain; it can be used 1/day, +1/day at 13th and 19th level. Which brings me to the bonuses of the guardian and harbinger, which irked me, to be frank. Why? The bonuses grant as spirit abilities and avatars benefits are…bingo.

Untyped bonuses all around. This is bothersome, considering that PFRPG ALREADY has ridiculous bonus-stacking going on, and untyped bonuses…well, personally, I’d need to type those all before allowing the class in my game. YMMV, but yeah. These should be typed. The dominions of the companion determine the damage type of the spirit blast, provide a 1st and 7th level ability, with additional effects for the avatar form and unlocked 13th and 19th level abilities. Land, for example, nets bludgeoning blasts, burrow speed 20 ft at first level for the companion, 7th level tremorsense 20 ft, and the avatar upgrades net burrow speed, tremorsense (both scaling) and acid resistance improving to immunity.

Okay, so the companion is a minor caster, pretty fragile, and can blast; now, what does the invoker themselves bring beyond the chassis? As noted before, we have a pool of spirit energy points, which is btw. ½ class level + Charisma modifier. The pool refreshes at the start of the day after 8 hours of rest. At first level, the invoker selects two spirits to bond with, and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. One of the spirits chosen at first level must match the companion’s oath and dominion. These spirits grant spirit powers, and said powers are usually a standard action to activate and have a save DC of 10 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier; the chosen spirit’s spells are added to the invoker list, but do NOT automatically become known for the spirit companion.

Part II of my review can be found here!


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This Arcforge-supplement clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 54 pages of content (yes, the pdf is missing its SRD), so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the behest of my supporters.

Now, before we start, it should be noted that Arcforge is a highly-permissive setting that gravitates to the upper echelon of the power-spectrum; psionics, akasha and tech in particular are firmly integrated into the setting, and it should be noted that the two core-engine books Arcforge: technology Expanded and Arcforge: Psibertech have some issues in internal consistency regarding their balance and the power-parity between options within those very options presented. For the purpose of this review, I’m not going to rehash my complaints in those regards, and instead focus on the content presented herein.

Structurally, the book uses a somewhat weird approach: It begins with campaign information, then proceeds towards a bestiary, and finishes with class options; personally, I prefer my player-facing material at the front, GM material at the back, but that just as an aside. I’ll start off with the player-facing options, which include 7 archetypes: Apostate dreads replace Climb, Stealth and Swim with Diplomacy and Knowledge (Arcana, Planes, and Religion), and twin fear is replaced with the Spook ability (which curiously, has a double colon); the ability enforces concentration checks for enemies, and ties the extra action array of the shadow twin feature instead to failing such a check. 15th level allows for the dread of shadow twin to emit an antimagic or null psionics field when such a check is failed…and twin/dread are unaffected. This is a clever-high-level tweak. I like it. 18th level allows for the expenditure of 2 terror uses to use mage’s disjunction or unravel psionics, and for 3 uses, both can be activated at once, targeting the same area; this replaces level 18’s terror. The two terrors allow for dispel magic/psionics (upgrades later), or impose an effect that manifests their casting/Manifesting ability. I like this archetype.

The chainmaster soulknife reduces damage die size by one step, but gets the reach and trip traits for the mind blade, regardless of form, and makes the mind blade qualify as a spiked chain for feat etc. purposes. Instead of quick draw, the mind chain may manipulate things as though his chains were hands, and also nets an untyped +2 bonus to combat maneuver checks, and it adds the grapple quality. Bonus should be typed here, and there is a “APG”-superscript not properly formatted here. Instead of 8th and 16th level’s blade skills, we have damage and backlash damage increases for the vicious special property (incorrectly formatted), which makes an even more massive sudden death attack, and at 16th level, mind chains ignore DR and hardness and increase critical damage multiplier by 1 to a maximum of x6. X5 is already ridiculous, so yeah, not a fan. The archetype also gets a soul binding capstone coupled with assimilate and the option to manifest the chain sans save in a null psionics field, though it still loses its special abilities.

The depthlord oracle exchanges mystery skills for Knowledge (dungeoneering, engineering) and Use Magic Device, and mystery bonus spells are replaced at 2nd level with a psychic spell one level lower than highest oracle spell known; the spell is treated as one level higher for all purposes. Every two levels thereafter, the depthlord may choose another. The revelations include SR and PR, and transparency between magic and psionics, including an interesting caveat. Eldritch Abomination antipaladins actually get smit abomination (vs. aberrations, Great old One servants, etc.), detect psionics instead of detect good, and touch of corruption and channel negative energy are replaced with the option to impart cumulative Will save penalties with attacks, with cruelties including confusion, insanity, and mind-shattering. 4th level nets gifted blade at one level lower instead of spells, and a metamorphosis powers-based replacement for fiendish boon. Interesting one; great for the dark champion that fights horrors with horror trope.

The reshaper cryptic replaces pattern design with a warped appearance, and may forego cryptic insights in favor of 2 customization points for aberrant aegis customizations; 7th and 16th level net (greater) metamorphosis, respectively, and we have a new capstone. Rustsworn hunter slayers get proficiency with heavy armor and sniper weapons, but moves studied target to 5th level and reduces its bonus by 1. The archetype also loses armor check penalty on Stealth (incorrect formatting) instead of 6th level’s slayer talent. The talent at 12th level is replaced by class level resistance to fire, cold and acid. Steelduster rangers lose wild empathy and spellcasting in favor or a mech, and a new feat array option array for the combat style feats; hunter’s bond is modified to get a synthetic companion that may merge with the mech, and at the highest levels, the steelduster’s companion can even pilot the mech. The quarry abilities are lost, though.

The book includes 6 new feats: boon mech is a multiclass feat for mech progression; Harmonic Resilience makes your SR apply to powers, and PR to spells. Killing Madness lets you kill a creature by reducing it to 0 sanity or a mental ability score to negatives…I like the idea, but it’s not that hard to abuse. Mechanical Initiate nets a bonded mech at -4 class level. Metapsionic Ability has its verbiage in a pretty confusing mess: it’s clear that it originally was an excerpt from some other rules-component; its presentation as a feat confused me, big time. Still not 100% sure about how this was supposed to work. Soul Keeper makes creatures you kill slightly harder to return to the living, and nets you a minor bonus when you kill a critter; the bonus is conservative enough to make a kitten-exploit not feasible.

Unless I’ve miscounted, the pdf also includes 16 new powers…wait. Tactical suppression…that save-or-suck prevent creatures from using specific actions…sounds familiar. And those super-potent augmentation options…that bestow curse, just in better and much more flexible malefic metamorphosis…I *definitely* have seen that stuff before. That cool latent programming power…I know it…but…I also have those weird flashbacks to that one pdf. The Horror, the Horror! Kidding aside, the pdf reproduces a series of psionic powers first featured in the Terrors from the ID-supplement. On the plus side, the formatting this time around is not a total trainwreck, but on the downside, a few of them could have used some gentle nerfbat-prodding. Oh, and the formatting is still littered with some legacy errors from Terrors, with power-references erroneously title-cased and the like. That being said, as a whole, the powers selected tend to rank among the best/most creative from Terrors book; if you need to make a decision, get this one right here. The cool mind-games powers are all here, formatting is better, and the power-selection is certainly something of a best of. If you need guidance on some nerfing, I’d suggest being very careful with the augmentation options provided. Eliminating them makes the power-section more suitable for lower-powered games.

Okay, that out of the way, let’s take a look at the setting section: The first 7 pages provide the basic introduction to the setting of Vandara, and if you read Spheres of Influence, for example, will be material you already know. Where the pdf diverges from previous books in the series would be with its major locations, which include the Ashfield, perfect reminder of the ruin that the qlippoth war wrought upon the lands; deadly and frozen Coeusel, where the qlippoth reign supreme and corrupt wildlife; the nuke-blasted and hobgoblin-led Dorukalad, a region that seemingly consists of trenches and bunkers, with war as the raison d’être for daemons and goblinoids alike…and there would be the Erebine, a labyrinth at the planet’s core and dumping ground for ancient war creatures and titans from the Maker’s War. We learn about the wreckage-choked Gray Ocean, where the qlippoth still retain some sort of supremacy, and the sajac fortification, fortresses on and around mountains,a re a bit like a combined super-dwarven hold and The Wall. Finally, the silicone barrier is also expanded upon. These lore-heavy write-ups are an absolute joy to read and genuinely compelling; they adhere to the “go large or go home”-style, without ever feeling rididculous. They make sense.

The majority of the book is taken up by…*dingdingding* monsters! We start off with a CR +2 template for apostle kytons, who can recite damaging prayers, cause bleeding wounds, and style-wise definitely have the whole Hellraiser-conversion angle going. Nice template, supported by a CR 12 cryptic with the template. A CR 13 shooting star firing and disease-devouring papinjuwari giant is also provided here, but it seems to have lost its flavor on the cutting-room floor. Of course, the main focus of this booklet would be the qlippoths: the book presents a psionic subtype variant, which is pretty nice, though oddly the headers for the signature abilities it nets have not been bolded properly. This is cosmetic, though. Qlippoths in Vandara have a corruption, and when they reduce Wisdom or Charisma to 0, they permanently alter the unfortunate: Elves may become drow; dragons psionic dragons; cyclops papinjuwari…you get the idea. I really like this. They also detonate. I’m fond of detonating monsters. I’m even more fond of the state of Aristeia, which means “certain doom”; essentially, it’s the super-saiyajin state for qlippoths, represent by, well a mythic template. A Cr 16/MR 6 Ylyrgoi (including a really nifty full-color artwork) illustrates that.

At CR 2 the cythnigot, at CR 3 the hydraggon, at CR 4 the thognorok, at CR 5 the deinochos, at CR 7 the shoggti, at CR 8 the utukku, at CR 10 the nyogoth, at CR 11 the gongorinan, at CR 12 the chernobue, at CR 13 the behimiron, at CR 14, we have the augnagarat, at CR 15 the wilbopik, at CR 16 the cataboligne, at CR 18 the thulgant, and at CR 20 the iathavos. Yep, that would be the whole qlippoth-cadre rebuilt as psionic qlippoths. I like this very much, as the new versions tend to be a tad bit more frightening/potent. Are the builds perfect? Not always; there’s e.g. an instance where a Psi-like ability notes a CL instead of a ML…but as a whole, this is certainly nice to have. These hiccups in refinement can also be seen with the qlippoth-corrupted creature, which has its header modification header not properly formatted; more egregious: the sample creature (Gnoph-Keh, CR 12, fyi) refers to “qlippoth-blighted” instead of “qlippoth-corrupted”; it also e.g. lacks the scent universal monster ability that it’s supposed to get from the template, among other.

But the book has one trump-card left to play. Or rather, 7.
Askyjoth. Estidoth. Kazeyoth. Liktruoth. Nyorbradoth. Remaloth. Zelovoth.
Most of them are CR 24.
Yep, you guessed it: qlippoth lords. And yes, they can go Aristeia with a modified template, and they get their own qlippoth lord traits. Oh, and those builds…ACs in the 40s. massive hp pools (usually 400+); massive defensive capabilities; signature abilities galore. We have e.g. one with crossover construct-outsider immunities and the ability to ignore warped/difficult terrain, essentially a living terraformer; we have a dervish-style shredder wielding 4 adamantine scimitars who can scavenge each day anew the abilities of 3 level 20 characters, and some less complex behemoths…and can you picture what kind of damage output you need to best that lord who also has a 20th-level vitalist’s collective?
These lords ROCK.
Why? Because they take the ultra-permissive approach of Arcforge and make massive numbers-puzzles bossfights that require top-tier, optimized parties to beat, doing what, arguably, only PFRPG can do to this extent. Some of these builds reminded me of some bossrebuilds I made for my super-optimized campaign, and I mean that as a true compliment. And yes, they get full-color artworks. There is but one thing I can complain about realistically here, and that would be that they lack lore; it’d have been amazing to see a big, fat lore section for each of the lords. Then again, their statblocks do tell stories, and ensure that even optimized parties should do their legwork before challenging them. Why? What about one who is immune to AND capable of using any psi-like ability of undead creatures under its command? Yeah, run into this fellow unprepared and without a plan, and you go splatter-splotch. And the themes they have are represented exceedingly well in the respective signature abilities. Yes, I’m a sucker for super-enemies…but who isn’t? Particularly when they highlight so well what the author can do?

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting in particular are a bit inconsistent: On the one hand, there are top-tier complexity statblocks without any gripes, on the other hand, we have some aggravating formatting snafus in basic ability headers. Still, as a whole, so far the most refined Arcforge-book I’ve covered. Rules issues tend to be primarily focused in reprinted material, and as such, I’ll deemphasize those in the rating. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with a blend of old and new artwork. The bookmarks are only basic: For example, we only get a bookmark for qlippoth lords, not for each individual one, which makes navigation less comfortable than it should be.

This installment of Matt Daley’s Arcforge-series feels like he found his voice; the flavor/setting components are great and evocative, and the monster builds, particularly for the lords, are BRUTAL, in the best of ways. The player-facing options show more restraint than I’ve seen in Arcforge so far, which is a very good thing indeed. The only components I’m not too keen on would be the powers, but mainly due to their augmentation options generally catapulting them significantly above comparable options at the same level; getting rid of the augmentation options is a rough, but swift way of nerfing them slightly at least, which should be sufficient for Arcforge games embracing the massive power presumed by the setting. (or, you know, only use them for qlippoths…) For other games, a sharper scrutiny may be in order. Still, even when taking the issues in the powers-reprint into consideration, design-wise, this is the most refined I’ve seen Arcforge so far.

Now, this book does have its fair share of avoidable hiccups, but it similarly has a lot going for it; if you’re as much of a fan as I am when it comes to super-deadly bosses, then this booklet will make you smile and warrant the asking price for the qlippoth lords alone. The Aristeia mode is just a beautifully volatile icing on the qlippoth cake as far as I’m concerned and adds a significant level of danger and unpredictability to the supplement. It also BREATHES Anime/Evangelion/etc., which I adore. Psionics and qlippoth are a great match, and I appreciated the rebuilds as well.

Soooo, how to rate this? Weeeeell. Formally, there are a lot of small hiccups that accumulate, and that some will consider to be jarring. HOWEVER, there is also a lot of genuinely inspiring stuff here. And I love the qlippoth lords. As a person, I’ll round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars; as a reviewer, though, I have to round down, since the sheer amount of formal hiccups would make rounding up unfair for all the other books I’ve covered over the years. Still, if you like your top-tier/super-deadly builds, check this out, even if the core-ideas of mechas and Arcforge as a setting are less interesting to you. If you even remotely like qlippoths, this is worth getting.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

This eventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters and as such moved up in my queue.

Okay, so this eventure works a bit differently from the usual ones, in that it does feature a bit of more contextualization required: This module pretty much requires being set in a coastal city to work as written; the module uses the city of Languard as a default, but conversion to Sasserine, Freeport, Riddleport, etc. is not difficult. The premise, you see, is that the infamous pirate captain Tyric Selflit has passed away, and the consequences of this happening. In a way, the module consists of 3 distinct vignettes that could be run independent of each other, between adventures, or in direct sequence. Part II is a bit more contingent on the other parts, but with some work, it can be run on its own as well. It should be noted that the second part works MUCH BETTER with “A Day Out at the Executions.”

Okay, the eventure begins with 3 hooks and a d8-table of rumors before going into the details of the respective scenes.

The first scene is all about the news spreading, and as such, is complemented by tables that include false and correct rumors, some minor events, and a total of 20 pieces of dressing; the setting of the stage presented here in stages, from bells tolling to rampant speculation, does a good job driving home the gravitas of the situation.

The second scene, then, would be about the deceased pirate getting a funeral of sorts at Traitor’s Gate (see A Day Out at the Executions); here, 6 exceedingly detailed NPC writeups are presented, alongside with a bit of read-aloud text, mannerisms, background, distinguishing features, and notes for interaction with the party. Cool per se…but, you’ve probably already expected what I’m about to say: While we get a rough context line for the power of the individuals (say, “LE female elf ranger 4”), that’s all the mechanics you’ll get, and in this instance, getting some brief notes on social skills etc. would have very much made sense.

Part 3, then, would essentially be the reading of the Will in a shady pirate’s bar, so whether or not the party actually is there will depend on the morals of your group. The tavern is not mapped, and there is an additional NPC for further complications here. The celebration itself, somewhat to my chagrin, is also bereft of rules – even though knife-throwing, drinking etc. all can easily be gamified without spending a lot of words. PARTICULARLY considering PF2’s elegant engines, this would not have been hard. The “notary” does hand out maps, and then offers a quest of sort – for a legendary artifact, which, yep, does not come with stats. (Though, if you do have the 3.X-book Elder Evils, you’ll have a good idea for an end-game for it…) Much to my chagrin, the important parts, the celebration itself and the reading of the will, are totally glossed over. The latter, very volatile situation, is even relegated to a single paragraph. No, I am not kidding you. No if/then, no details…it was a serious downer for me.
The eventure closes with some suggestions for further adventures.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-level, the latter being no surprise, since there are next to no rules-relevant components herein. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf offers solid b/w-art, but no cartography for the environments. For Part II, this is not necessarily an issue, but in Part III, it does hurt the adventure. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen use, and the pdfs come fully bookmarked.

Jacob W. Michaels is a veteran designer and author, and it shows in the skillful web of NPCs woven and how plausible they feel. This little pdf manages to set up something we only rarely include in adventures, even though the reading of a will can be rather exciting and a grand source of adventuring options. That being said, I do think that this supplement doesn’t prioritize its content correctly, perhaps due to over-emphasizing NPC-write-ups. This is billed as the end of a notorious villain and the aftermath of his demise, which is a neat premise and something I enjoy seeing.

But the execution? It left me rather disappointed. The eventure spends a lot of time on a plethora of NPCs in Part II, and then misses actually making the capstone of the show, the will itself, interesting. Sure, the web of personalities is neat to see, but combined with the lack of concrete rules, the result of this eventure is that it feels like a very long and detailed adventure hook, not like a social adventure in and off itself. As for the PF2-version, the same structural gripes as in PF1 apply, though personally, my heart aches whenever I see a module not make use of PF2’s exceedingly elegant and word-count-friendly ways to make adventures shine.

In many ways, this either needed more content, or it needed to be split in two to make both parts shine: One eventure for celebrating the demise of a villain, and another one for a proper wake/reading of the will.

As presented, this eventure felt like a let-down to me, and it is only due to the author’s indubitable skill and the low and fair price point that my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars. Compared to the other eventures in the product-line, this one fell flat.

Endzeitgeist out.


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3/5

This eventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters and as such moved up in my queue.

Okay, so this eventure works a bit differently from the usual ones, in that it does feature a bit of more contextualization required: This module pretty much requires being set in a coastal city to work as written; the module uses the city of Languard as a default, but conversion to Sasserine, Freeport, Riddleport, etc. is not difficult. The premise, you see, is that the infamous pirate captain Tyric Selflit has passed away, and the consequences of this happening. In a way, the module consists of 3 distinct vignettes that could be run independent of each other, between adventures, or in direct sequence. Part II is a bit more contingent on the other parts, but with some work, it can be run on its own as well. It should be noted that the second part works MUCH BETTER with “A Day Out at the Executions.”

Okay, the eventure begins with 3 hooks and a d8-table of rumors before going into the details of the respective scenes.

The first scene is all about the news spreading, and as such, is complemented by tables that include false and correct rumors, some minor events, and a total of 20 pieces of dressing; the setting of the stage presented here in stages, from bells tolling to rampant speculation, does a good job driving home the gravitas of the situation.

The second scene, then, would be about the deceased pirate getting a funeral of sorts at Traitor’s Gate (see A Day Out at the Executions); here, 6 exceedingly detailed NPC writeups are presented, alongside with a bit of read-aloud text, mannerisms, background, distinguishing features, and notes for interaction with the party. Cool per se…but, you’ve probably already expected what I’m about to say: While we get a rough context line for the power of the individuals (say, “LE female elf ranger 4”), that’s all the mechanics you’ll get, and in this instance, getting some brief notes on social skills etc. would have very much made sense.

Part 3, then, would essentially be the reading of the Will in a shady pirate’s bar, so whether or not the party actually is there will depend on the morals of your group. The tavern is not mapped, and there is an additional NPC for further complications here. The celebration itself, somewhat to my chagrin, is also bereft of rules – even though knife-throwing, drinking etc. all can easily be gamified without spending a lot of words. The “notary” does hand out maps, and then offers a quest of sort – for a legendary artifact, which, yep, does not come with stats. (Though, if you do have the 3.X-book Elder Evils, you’ll have a good idea for an end-game for it…) Much to my chagrin, the important parts, the celebration itself and the reading of the will, are totally glossed over. The latter, very volatile situation, is even relegated to a single paragraph. No, I am not kidding you. No if/then, no details…it was a serious downer for me.
The eventure closes with some suggestions for further adventures.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-level, the latter being no surprise, since there are next to no rules-relevant components herein. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf offers solid b/w-art, but no cartography for the environments. For Part II, this is not necessarily an issue, but in Part III, it does hurt the adventure. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen use, and the pdfs come fully bookmarked.

Jacob W. Michaels is a veteran designer and author, and it shows in the skillful web of NPCs woven and how plausible they feel. This little pdf manages to set up something we only rarely include in adventures, even though the reading of a will can be rather exciting and a grand source of adventuring options. That being said, I do think that this supplement doesn’t prioritize its content correctly, perhaps due to over-emphasizing NPC-write-ups. This is billed as the end of a notorious villain and the aftermath of his demise, which is a neat premise and something I enjoy seeing.

But the execution? It left me rather disappointed. The eventure spends a lot of time on a plethora of NPCs in Part II, and then misses actually making the capstone of the show, the will itself, interesting. Sure, the web of personalities is neat to see, but combined with the lack of concrete rules, the result of this eventure is that it feels like a very long and detailed adventure hook, not like a social adventure in and off itself.

In many ways, this either needed more content, or it needed to be split in two to make both parts shine: One eventure for celebrating the demise of a villain, and another one for a proper wake/reading of the will.

As presented, this eventure felt like a let-down to me, and it is only due to the author’s indubitable skill and the low and fair price point that my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars. Compared to the other eventures in the product-line, this one fell flat.

Endzeitgeist out.


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1/5

This book in the Arcforge-series clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, first of all: I don’t expect perfection here. I went into this review with the firm desire to be lenient, as this book attempts something that can system-immanently not be achieved with perfect precision, namely provide more extensive guidelines regarding the translation of SFRPG material to Pathfinder’s first edition, and vice versa.

While both systems seem similar at first glance, even a cursory analysis will show that there are crucial differences in almost all components of the systems in question. This, of course, comes as no surprise to people who have actually played both systems, but it bears mentioning. These differences obviously also extend to the act of building characters and using options.

Now, ideally, we’d have a kind of book-shaped program—input system A, output content perfectly-balanced for system B, but the like would require a near boundless database of material, considering PFRPG’s vast amount of content, and SFRPG’s constant growth.  Unfortunately, the like is, pretty much system-immanently, a squaring of the circle for systems of this complexity, and not something the book could ever originally hope to achieve. If you want a perfect conversion product, then, well, you’ll be disappointed. This book never had a chance to deliver that.

PFRPG’s focus on numerical bonuses, SFRPG’s stamina/resolve-chassis, how magic items and damage is handled, and so many more components, are simply incompatible in many ways, and would require a firm retooling from the ground up.

To make this abundantly clear: The basic premise of this book is as deeply and fundamentally flawed as the SFRPG Core-book’s basic conversion guidelines, at least if you want to maintain the aesthetics and balancing of the two systems, a problem that is more pronounced in SFRPG, as it generally is much less swingy regarding the power-levels of the characters and parties as a whole. If you ever went through the hassle of using SFRPG’s core book’s conversion guidelines for a complex PFRPG-class, you’ll know what I mean.

Introducing PFRPG into this context will inevitably break the power-curve of SFRPG, and/or result in some very weird situations. Same goes vice versa—in PFRPG, targeting touch AC is a huge thing; in SFRPG, touch ACs, per the core book’s conversion guidelines are converted into something that targets EAC instead, which is generally significantly higher than touch AC.

However, if you are sufficiently proficient with both systems and wanted more guidelines than the rather sparse ones the SFRPG-core book offered, then continue reading. This book can’t relieve the task of conversion and balancing off your shoulders, but let’s see whether it can succeed in facilitating the process.

First of all, similar names of abilities, archetypes, etc. are handled by adding “SF” or “PF”, respectively, and the pdf acknowledges that PF-archetypes, when using PF-classes in SFRPG, should be allowed, with the caveat of requiring a case-by-case judgment regarding their applicability.

The book wastes no time and goes through all of Paizo’s PFRPG1-classes and how to adapt them to SFRPG, and also covers the Legendary-rebuilds, up to and including the samurai and magus.  This section and the notes of which class features are diminished, which lost, makes my contention above work better than anything I could have come up with. To give you an example, the following in the entirety of the conversion notes presented for the magus-class:

“2nd Level: For the highest level of magus spells you

can prepare, reduce the number of spells prepared

by 1.

4th Level: You do not gain Spell Recall. When you

would gain Improved Spell Recall, you instead gain

Spell Recall.

Multilevel 6th, 9th, 12th, and 18th levels: You do not

gain a Magus Arcana.“

Okay, so if you follow the global conversion guidelines, the touch attack of spellstrike now targets EAC, but in SFRPG, crits don’t require a reroll to confirm. This book later goes into the topics of critical hits and notes that unusual threat ranges and higher critical multipliers should have a translation regarding critical hit effects instead, and uses wound and severe wound as examples here. Okay but what about a spellstrike critically hitting? Should it have a different critical hit effect for melee attack and for spell conveyed? More generally, many of the secondary pools in PFRPG offer powers that are on par with options that require Resolve expenditure in SFRPG, and/or that have a cooldown, in that they can only be reused in SFRPG after a 10-minute rest in which Resolve was spent to regain Stamina. The book does state that a magus’ arcane pool should be eliminated in favor of Resolve LATER, but does not per se present any guidelines regarding the limitations that often accompany powers contingent on Resolve expenditure.

The material provided by this supplement, ultimately, can never be more than the tiniest fragment of the actual work that would be required to make PFRPG classes work in SFRPG – heck, a proper conversion of 1-3 classes from SFRPG would probably require at least the page-count of this entire book. And that’s not even starting with the fact that SFRPG’s spells tend to be weaker than those of PFRPG.

So yeah – this cannot be the universal conversion guideline it wants to be.

However, it does have some components going for it, in spite of this, as a general rough starting point for your own designs. What to do with favored class options, for example? Well, the pdf covers that.

We then take a look at the helmsman class from Arcforge: Technology Expanded, and probably is the most interesting take here, with the pdf acknowledging the need to remove the numerical bonuses prevalent in akasha, as well as suggestions for Resolve use, bonded vessel starships, etc.—there are some salient starting guidelines here, as well as a couple of armaments…but at the same time, the in-depth look at akasha and its global rewiring to adhere to the conventions of SFRPG isn’t really done.  Some feats, like Technologist and those pertaining combat maneuvers are covered as well, essentially elaborating slightly on the general guidelines presented in SFRPG’s core book. The pdf discourages the use of martial maneuvers and Path of War classes in SFRPG, but does imply the use of psionics and akasha, with the power-increasing and rather problematic “…as advanced tech” guidelines from Arcforge: Technology Expanded to be okay in SFRPG. …Yeah. NO.

This is problematic on a balance-level perspective, and also regarding the respective “item levels” or the like, as which these then are supposed to be treated. Personal pet-peeve: There is no “power armor” in SFRPG—the correct name is “powered armor”, and oddly, the book suggests making Arcforge: Technology Expanded’s mechs behave as powered armor, which makes NO SENSE. They behave clearly as a vehicle that is closer regarding its mobility to a powered armor, but…again. What was I expecting? To properly translate the rules to SFRPG would take much more space than just a paragraph.

On the plus-side, weapon category translation from PFRPG to SFRPG makes sense, and we take the finesse/operative angle into account, and the pdf also provides a quick fix regarding the different types of automatic fire when using PFRPG weapons with automatic fire in SFRPG—the pdf suggests changing the PFRPG version’s name to “automatic (burst).” PFRPG charges count as ½ SFRPG charge, and charges sourced from a SFRPG-battery count as two charges for PFRPG weaponry. And yep, oddly there is no acknowledging of the fact that PFRPG’s version of automatic fire can allow for automatic long-range blasts, while SFRPG’s version, oddly, is more spray and pray, in spite of ostensibly using the higher tech…well…tech. This is, alas, symptomatic. As soon as you go into the details, the book falls apart.

The quick and dirty 2 gold = 1 credit conversion for item costs may work for some games, but it is, balance-wise, widely off. Compare the dark blue rhomboid ioun stone with its +2 to Perception and Sense Motive (+4 when reaching 10 ranks) in Pathfinder, with its aeon stone equivalent. In SFRPG. the item in SFRPG provides a +2 insight bonus to Perception and Sense Motive. Both very basic, right? No later scaling in SFRPG, so the PFRPG-version is better.

If you follow these guidelines, the PFRPG-item (price: 10K gold) would only cost 5,000 credits in SFRPG. Here’s the thing: The SFRPG aeon stone? Priced at 18,000 credits and item level 10. Those are the most basic examples I could find at a glance; better one exist, but this one is so straightforward, it’s impossible to dispute.

The system provided here is not even close to what the output should be, and this example is the most basic I could find. It does get worse.

Let me make that abundantly clear:

These guidelines DO NOT WORK and will destroy any semblance of balance your SFRPG game has.

As an aside, I’d also like to mention that, in SFRPG, the resource is credits, and NOT “CP.”

It gets so much worse. “In SF, characters are unable to wear more than two functioning magic items at a time. Given the sheer number of magic items that become available when PF content is allowed, players may wish for a way to circumvent this restriction. Hence, it is proposed that for every unused armor upgrade slot the character possesses in their armor, the character may wear and use an additional worn magic item.” (Arcforge: Star*Path, pg.11)

And this is where anybody obviously stopped caring about any notion of balance whatsoever. Because a mk1 electrostatic field is CLEARLY the equivalent of a 192,000 gold amulet. Clearly. Nobody ever took a look at this and thought: “I think there ought to be some differentiation based on price going on here.”????

There is a table of technological artifacts with horribly priced items. PFRPG’s power armor from the Technology Guide is seriously presented as a 150,000 credit item…you know, instead of with, I don’t know…PROPER POWERED ARMOR STATS FOR SFRPG.

Oh, and don’t even think that the high-level armor-benefits and damage outputs in SFRPG are in any way, shape or form balanced with the PFRPG-material converted to the system.

In summary: The conversion notes from PFRPG to SFRPG are a dismal failure that will break your SFRPG-game to smithereens.

So, does the conversion notes from SFRPG to the first edition of PFRPG fare better? So, we begin with a solid conversion regarding HD, classes with weapon specialization lose it, and Resolve is used as a regular pool for class abilities only. Spells lose Resolve cost, and since many items, feats and ship actions require Resolve as well, the pdf champions the introduction of yet another pool, namely surge points, which is equal  ½ HD or CR, + the creature’s highest ability score modifier. The pdf advises in favor of doubling static bonus gains and the conversion notes for each class are better than that for the PFRPG classes, making use of spell lists, proficiencies, spell casting categories. Ironic: In the per se simple race conversions, static bonuses should be racial in PFRPG as well – something missing from e.g. the shirren’s gifted linguist ability. Blindsense in PFRPG is also much stronger than in SFRPG. Still, as a whole, this is somewhat better than the first part of the book.

And then we come to global system changes: When using this variant, all characters get Precise Shot, Technologist, Weapon Finesse and Improved Unarmed Strike, even if they don’t meet the prerequisites. Oh, and for the purpose of prerequisites, all characters are treated as having the Combat Expertise, Dodge, Point-Blank Shot and Power Attack feats, and any Improved combat maneuver feats are not required for the purpose of prerequisites.

At this point, the book leaves conversion guideline territory, and becomes “essentially a massive hack to the game, with different expectations that any core game I know has.” On the plus-side, we get a table with some PFRPG-feats and the SF-version, noting which feat to use—you’d use SF’s Spring Attack, but PF’s Spell Focus, for example. Odd: The longer the pdf runs, the more typos there seem to be – superscripts not superscripted, a “h” missing from “heavy armor” and the like, but that as an aside. The translation of SFRPG critical hit effects to PFRPG works (they are realized with threat range/multiplier mods instead; not a fan of the design, but it does work), and Weapon Focus essentially now applies to item groups. The pdf also provides guidelines for damage die increases when using SFRPG weapons in PFRPG, and a handy chart that lists damage dice and average damage, which is helpful for non-designer GMs who can’t quickly calculate the like on the fly. But know what’s missing? Entirely? Damage conversion. Know how SFRPG-weapons can have insane base damage values in comparison with PFRPG? Guess what’s not even mentioned? Bingo. How to use these/convert these. The magic item/fusion conversion is btw. as wonky as you’d expect it to be.

The book next provides some VERY cursory guidelines for using SFRPG monsters in PFRPG—which’d be a good point to note that the pdf does mention Armor Penetration rules. These can be found in the Arcforge: Psibertech book, and not, as claimed here, in the Arcforge: Technology Expanded book. Not a complaint, mind you, but it’s something I noticed while testing these three books.

This is btw. the section where it all clicked for me: Why no proper modification of armor and weapons: The GM’s supposed to modify the encounters to make up for the ridiculous escalation of AC and weapon damage! While some general guidelines are presented, this presents a kind of problem not unlike the one witnessed, ironically, with Mythic Adventures BEFORE Legendary Games started bashing that system into a better shape and properly upgraded the adversaries, banned the broken bits, etc.

I was honestly chuckling there for a second—in a very, very bitter way. I don’t think this is worth it. The conversion breaks the game, knows it, shrugs its shoulders and tells the GM to “git gud” and play rocket launcher tag. As an aside: Numerous spell references are wrong here, and throwing more enemies at PCs, high initiative, negative statuses and environment can only go so far. This is not an acceptable or in any way salient way of handling conversion.

This should have received the attention and care to make it work for vanilla Pathfinder groups.

The book also contains new mechanics in the guise of PF1-archetypes:

The ace greaser mechanic gets a companion vehicle and may choose helmsman overcharges in place of mechanic tricks. The robot lord helmsman gets the mechanic’s artificial intelligence and custom rig instead of the bonded vessel stuff.

Part II of my review can be found here.


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4/5

This installment of the Arcforge-series clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 6 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This supplement was moved up in my reviewing queue, since the remainder of Arcforge was requested as well, but while I’m in the process of analyzing and purchasing the series, I figured that it would make sense to take a look at this, as this supplement doubles as a gazetteer of sorts for the setting.

It should be noted that the issues I have found within the first two Arcforge supplements do not influence this review; instead, I’ll tackle this in as thorough a manner as I can as its own entity. This is relevant in as far as the first Arcforge supplements codified psionics as Advanced Technology and Akasha as Cybertech. Personally, I’d suggest making these components operate primarily on a flavor level—something that, fyi, works rather well. So no, you do not need all the implications of no longer denoting these components as magic.

Similarly, Arcforge partially has the notion that it can use PFRPG and SFRPG in the same game. While my analysis of the pertinent file, Star*Path, is not yet complete, there is a definite tendency that lets me state even now said pdf does not manage to achieve this goal. Consequently, I will review the PFRPG and SFRPG content included herein as components divorced from each other.

Okay, that being said, the book does contain the genesis of the setting of Vandara, a world rich in magic and resources, primed to become a center of culture and sophisticated magitech… which would then change as the people of Vandara made contact with extravandarians…the Qlippoth. Chthonic, alien and mighty, the alien scourge cut swaths of devastation into the land, to only be vanquished by the creation of the eponymous Arcforge. And yet, as the external threat eased, humanoid nature prevailed and the nations of the mighty planet once more fell apart into factions, now armed with exceedingly potent high-tech magical weaponry.

From this baseline, one can already pinpoint several defining factors: Arcforge is a high science-fantasy setting, with the “science”-part having a higher focus than usual, but the fantastic is also deeply ingrained in the planet, which is, just fyi, a creation of the progenitor dragon species. With Outer Lords having ships that blot the very sun, Vandara brims with high-tech, and the Arcforge-mech-angle also means that there is a distinct Anime-angle infused in the setting; not in a Lodoss War way, but in one that reminded me more of ole’ Appleseed, Gundam, etc. One of the most interesting and helpful pieces of flavor provided here would be the 12 injunctions: Essentially a grand societal contract that the people of Vandara agreed upon; these injunctions prevent for example war crimes, atomic exchanges, etc., with the Qlippoth threat emphasized by being listed here. If you need an analogue, I’d consider them to be closer to Warhammer’s CHAOS than to regular demonic cultists.

Now, one thing that the author Matt Daley and I have in common would be a rather extensive tendency for permissiveness regarding various exotic and less-exotic 3pp-options, and indeed, the Arcforge setting does a couple of things I very much enjoy: It explains the place and context of a type of magic within the frame of the respective setting; So what actually, logic-wise, akasha is in Vandara? That’s explained. Same goes for psionics, for psychic magic, etc. Here are a couple of differences, though: Vandara overlaps with the ethereal plane, but otherwise is pretty isolated from standard planar cosmology due to the Silicon Barrier, which renders e.g. banishment etc. a painful (untyped damage) random teleport instead, and which means that summon spells? They actually draw from creatures in Vandara. The latter is a VERY important change of the core assumptions here, and one that can have very interesting and far-reaching consequences. The aforementioned barrier also prevents communication with any soul that perished prior to the creation of it, and raising the dead? It actually weakens outsiders of the respective creature’s alignment nearby.

The planet also features a magical alternative to the internet, loosely based on mindscapes, and the supplement then proceeds to give us an overview of the nations of Vandara, some supported by stunning artworks. All of this lore and the basic premise of the setting has me rather excited indeed; the setting is compelling and interesting, and manages to evoke a sense of a plausible world that touches upon familiar tropes without being just a reiteration of the old, also courtesy due to the rules informing to a significant degree the underlying premises of the setting.

On a rules-level, we have the arcforged champion class template for paladins and antipaladins, which can best be summed up as an option to make a mech-pilot paladin or antipaladin. It is a well-wrought and welcome option for Arcforge and does what it says on the tin.

Now, one basic premise you need to know regarding Arcforge, is that the setting uses a LOT of different subsystems, and not all of them necessarily operate within the same frame of reference, but it should also be noted that this supplement at least does show examples of crossover options that are interesting: Let us take the 4 new armorist tricks (for the Spheres of Power class); the minor layout hiccups (a superscript missing, the “S” of “SoP” has been added to the “armorist”-word) aside, we have e.g. the option to reduce enhancement bonus from the armorist to gain the soulknife’s emulate technological weapon blade skills; this does represent a power-upgrade, but Spheres of Power is a system that is geared towards an (often) more down-to-earth power-level, whereas Arcforge, courtesy of its other systems, tends to gravitate to the higher power-levels. In a way, this can be seen as a power-increase, yes, but one in line with the higher-powered paradigms implied by the setting. The “magical” “call me”-type of mech also gets a representation here, which is, obviously, a powerful option, but one that perfectly fits within the context of the world; conversely, if that sort of thing does not gel with your aesthetics, its limitations make it easy to discard from your iteration of Vandara. There also are a few rules-relevant components that might be construed to be problematic, such as a +2 enhancement bonus increase that does not specify the usual cap these have. Using spell points to rapidly change mech enhancements will be welcomed by people who want their mechs more magical/flexible.

While we’re on the subject of Spheres of Power: We also have a symbiat archetype, the technopath; regarding the core engine, the technopath is interesting, foregoing telekinetic manipulation for the option to transfer sprites as immediate actions, a kind of mental super-defense field and linkage, etc. —per se cool; I’m not a fan of the untyped bonus employed by the optimize ability, though. Wait. Sprite. Need to talk about that, right? Well, the pdf includes a new sphere, the Technomancy sphere.

This sphere lets you, as a standard action, generate sprites, technomagical entities within constructs or technological items, which persist as long as you concentrate, or 1 minute per level sans concentration if you spend a spell point. While such a program exists in such an object, you may run one of 4 different programs: Drain does what it says on the tin and drains a charge on a failed save, and constructs instead get a scaling debuff. Interfere can negate the action of another sprite, even when it’s not your turn. Power generates a charge, or acts as a buff. The former is problematic, as it generates infinite charges and lends itself to infinite healing exploits and similar tricks, particularly since the charges gained also increase. This would get a hard limit per item per day in my game, or the ban hammer. This one needs a caveat or a proper non-exploit agreement between players and GMs.
Transfer makes the sprite move to another host in close range. While close range is a technical term, it’d have been more convenient to have the distance spelled out. Also: The core ability does not specify a range, and both touch and close would make sense, though this usage of the sphere makes close the more likely culprit. Note that each sprite can only execute ONE of these per round, which means there’s theoretically some cool strategizing going on here. I can see users of these spheres pit their sprites against each other in a compelling manner. 16 talents are also included for the sphere, including new programs to unlock for the sprites, which are set apart by the (program) tag; these include skill boosts due to analyzing targets (annoyingly untyped and the verbiage includes a few skill references not in title case), and e.g. making the target deal additional damage; ideally, the damage type would specify that this uses the host’s damage type, but yeah. Other talents let sprites assimilate charges they Drain and use them to Power other objects; see above. Concealed sprites etc. can also be found, and having sprites from a destroyed host evacuate to other targets? Yeah, can see that. If you also have the divination sphere, you can divine for sprites, which was a nice touch. For completion’s sake: Yes, the sphere’s abilities sometimes prompt Fortitude saves, and objects/constructs are usually exempt, but considering the exclusive focus of the sphere, I don’t consider the omission of an exception-clause for this particular rule to be a problematic. Mathematically, it should be noted, though, that courtesy of these immunities, constructs do not have adequate saves to reliably resist these effects. As a consequence, implementing the sphere on the player’s side does require some contemplation on the GM’s side, and a likewise implementation…or a modification of the construct type’s chassis. It also should be noted that the sphere effects tend to cap at 20th level, which most Spheres of Power-based options do not. HOWEVER, personally, I do think that this makes sense (and that Spheres of Power would have benefited from hard caps. Just my 2 cents.

The advanced talents include transforming targets into Ais, controlling mechs, or making sprites permanent – super-powerful, high-concept…and honestly? All well-situated in the advanced talents sphere. Unlike many a sphere, here the differentiation is VERY clear in conceptual power, and while the core sphere isn’t perfect, the differentiation between those parts? Smooth indeed.

The pdf also offers an incanter sphere specialization for the sphere, which makes your sprites more resilient to interference and also nets you buffs versus sprite hosts. I think the level 1 ability is too dippable here, and I’m not too fond of the unified energy ability; I *can* construct an exploit out of it, but it’s an obscure enough one to not repeat it here. I was rather fond of the sprite-based prodigy-imbue sequence and its system overload finisher. The one boon provided is brutal: Techno-Miraculous makes attempts to counterspell or dispel you fail automatically, unless the target has the Technomancy sphere or Harmonic Counter (one of 7 new feats; lets you use Counterspell feats vs. technological equipment). As noted before, this “separate”-angle imho doesn’t work too well in PFRPG, but YMMV; personally, I’d rather roll the Harmonic Counter into the regular engine, but that may be me. Two drawbacks are included, and for Spheres of Might we have a talent that nets proficiency with all heavy weapons.

The other feats include two (Dual-Sphere) feats, one for use of Life Sphere with tech, and one that lets you use sprites and Mind sphere to make constructs valid targets; the latter makes sense on many levels to me. There is another feat that nets transparency between spells and psionics, and one that lets you one-hand two-handed weapons at a -2 penalty. Not a fan, also because of the massive array of consequences this has for weapons, but I guess this is a bit of genre-pandering. You might consider it awesome instead. Magical Lorekeeper lets you poach spells from other members of your spellcasting tradition, but fails to account for how the situation of a spell with different spell-levels for different classes is handled. Soul Keeper is an outsider feat that lets you hold souls and be buffed by killing. 12 casting and mixed traditions are also provided.

There is one more pathfinder archetype to note: The zoomer for the powerful (and very interesting) voyager class; now, I’ve gone on record stating that I adore a lot about that fellow, even if the voyager is pretty damn potent and beyond what I’m comfortable allowing in most of my games. Most of them. The zoomer, essentially, is the mech-version of the class, and may e.g. use the vehicle they get as a the location of her parallel action range; the archetype is an excellent rendition of the zipping, space-bending ace-pilot we know from various anime series, often as the nigh unstoppable enemy who ends up being pretty fragile. Considering the voyager chassis, this makes sense. On the down-side, the formatting glitches here and there, like e.g. an ability-header that’s not bold…well, that did make my face twitch. There also is a “call mech to you” vigilante archetype, just fyi.

The Starfinder content presented herein is in a way unconventional, as they are class-specific archetypes; in short, they operate like PFRPG-archetypes, not like the blanket archetypes SFRPG usually employs. I’m okay with that per se. The Industrial priest technomancer is a divine spellcaster, and they get a variant cache capacitator. Annoying: Spell-list formatting of the available spells is borked completely, and yes, it includes PFRPG spells, I assume due to Star*Path. One of the abilities lets the technomancer spend Resolve to convert half damage dealt to untyped holy or unholy; not a fan. In a way, this is a good point to state one of the issues that Star*Path encountered, and that would be the cardinal issue I have with Arcforge: The assumption of global parities between sub-systems and powers, and here, systems. PFRPG and SFRPG look a lot alike, and play in a similar manner, but with some experience under the belt, the differences become evident, even if one doesn’t engage in a deep math analysis. So yeah, I’m not a fan of this one; the machine voice envoy who can affect constructs and gets a custom rig? Okay, here I wasn’t really sure why it exists, to be honest, and the scholastic technomancer is essentially a book-caster version…which, again, struck me as a weird choice.

In PFRPG, some options may be a bit rough, but I see why they’re here; the SFRPG options, on the other hand, don’t feel like they were really made for the system, and oddly look like filler to me; none of the excitement of the design decisions in the remainder of the book can be found with them.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; when it comes to a rules-language level, the pdf, alas, attains an at-best “okay” rating; there were several instances of formatting hiccups, some even in ability names, and the rules-language also has some wide-open exploits and minor omissions that tarnish what is a per se inspired basic set-up. The pdf is certainly not up to the usual level of polish Legendary Games supplements tend to have. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with a blend of old and new full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Daley’s Arcforge-setting, on a conceptual level, has truly captured my interest; I really like it, and it appeals to the scifi-fan in me as well as the mecha-fanboy; the SETTING is one I’d genuinely enjoy playing in, and it is obvious that some serious passion for PFRPG went into this. This feels like a passion-project from top to bottom, and I can really appreciate this. I did not expect to say this after the hit and miss and frustration of the first two books, but I like the setting and want to know more. It has this sense of genuine passion and excitement that are hard to come by.

As a reviewer, this book,


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This Eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

And no, that was no typo; an eventure is essentially an adventure-like set-piece that does not focus on combat, and instead emphasizes actual roleplaying. This one is intended for low to mid-level characters, with lower levels imho working a bit better.

Okay, so, this one deals with something you almost ever see in RPGs, and when one does, it’s usually executed badly: The auction. At this point, I’ve encountered that set-up less than 5 times in my reviewing career, and most of the time, these auctions only served as a cutscene-heavy backdrop without much actual player-choice involved. So, how does this supplement handle things?

Well, for one, there is great news right off the bat: The book actually comes with a fully player-friendly, detailed b/w map, and we’re speaking 4 floors + cellar. AWESOME. If you’re like me a great fan of the city of Languard and its associated Languard Locations-series, you’ll be happy to hear that Raisa’s is indeed situated in that city, though, for everyone else, it should be noted that it’s a 0-effort-required job to plug the auction house into pretty much any other fantasy city. Additionally, the pdf does suggest some handy dressing files from the #20-Things-series that you can employ to further enhance the experience, if you need some additional dressing.
Indeed, one advantage this one certain has over previous installments in the series would be the utility of the art-assets: We, for example, get a massive 1-page artwork of the eponymous Raisa, and the pdf actually does come with a one-page handout-flyer. AWESOME. This is how art budget should be used; so the players actually get to see it. Big kudos!

The supplement begins with a brief run-down of the notable NPCs working at Raisa’s—fluff only, as usual for Raging Swan Press. It’d have been nice to see this reference the default NPC-roster of PF2. 3 hooks and 12 whispers and rumors are provided as means to lead into the eventure, and as usual for Raging Swan Press supplements, we also get this nifty list of minor events (12 rather detailed ones this time, taking up ½ of a page) that help an environment feel alive. Now, as a minor complaint, the whispers and rumors section doesn’t account for critical successes and failures, but know what’s a plus? Pricing. The PF2-conversion actually does correctly calculate things like silvered weapons and accounts for the proper pricing structures, even in story-centric curios.

Now, design-wise, an auction represents an interesting conundrum: If you do plot out the auction in detail, you are essentially teeter-tottering around the risk of it devolving into a railroad, an extended cutscene, where the GM has to depict multiple NPCs, the party interacts with that, and everything becomes confusing or bereft of player agenda. This pdf does things in a smarter and more playable manner that sacrifices being something you can spontaneously pull off in favor of the auction actually mattering, an excellent decision as far as I’m concerned.

Beyond the aforementioned set-up regarding hooks, events, etc., the supplement handles its auction by giving the GM fluff-centric brief notes on NPCs (3 of which get a slightly more detailed take, including a paragraph of read-aloud text), and then presenting 8 curios that may or may not have actual rules-use…these can be items for the auction, sure. But the main star? That would be the 5 lots included. These are specific treasures, including a read-aloud description. They have main powers (usually core/standard magic items) and additional powers that can be useful/elaborated upon, if desired.

The section “Provenance” provides a story-context for the item, and with reserve price and notes on bidding and further development, the lots do a surprisingly good job at contextualizing items that would usually be considered to be less than interesting. How good a job? Well, there is the Ever-True Blade (in a formatting glitch, the “ever” isn’t properly set in italics), which is actually just a +1 weapon with a light effect; and yet, its story context and brief notes did make me actually interesting in an item that couldn’t be duller on a mechanics level if it tried. But the nice thing here is: The pdf seems to be cognizant of the limited direct allure of the items for some GMs and provides design notes for the items, providing some guidance for the GM, for example when it comes to Agananxer’s Wondrous Rod. Will I make the items more unique? You bet I will! Am I going to change the set-up/context? No need.

This is a clever way of handling an auction; sure, it requires a bit more GM mojo and prep-work than the previous eventures, but it certainly has its priorities straight and execution down. So, all great? I’d really have enjoyed getting some unique items for PF2; considering how PF2 magic items don’t take up too much space, it’d have been nice to see a few new ones for the young system.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious glitches apart from very minor things like the aforementioned instance of italics partially missing. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artworks deserve special applause: I am a big fan of properly used art-budgets, and getting two handouts and a player-friendly, amazing b/w-map in such a small pdf? That’s fantastic indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for screen-use, and one intended for people like yours truly, who prefer to print out their pdfs.

Creighton Broadhurst’s take on roleplaying-centric auctions is precise, executed in a clever manner that prioritizes the right things, and as a whole, represents a supplement I really, really like. I don’t love it unanimously, but I do think it’s superior to the PF1 and system neutral version, primarily because the system is young, the execution solid, and there is simply less to demand from the pdf in this iteration. That being said, actually gamifying some parts of the bidding by referencing NPC statblocks and/or relevant values would have been appreciated. As such, my final verdict will round up from 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This Eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

And no, that was no typo; an eventure is essentially an adventure-like set-piece that does not focus on combat, and instead emphasizes actual roleplaying. This one is intended for low to mid-level characters, with lower levels imho working a bit better.

Okay, so, this one deals with something you almost ever see in RPGs, and when one does, it’s usually executed badly: The auction. At this point, I’ve encountered that set-up less than 5 times in my reviewing career, and most of the time, these auctions only served as a cutscene-heavy backdrop without much actual player-choice involved. So, how does this supplement handle things?

Well, for one, there is great news right off the bat: The book actually comes with a fully player-friendly, detailed b/w map, and we’re speaking 4 floors + cellar. AWESOME. If you’re like me a great fan of the city of Languard and its associated Languard Locations-series, you’ll be happy to hear that Raisa’s is indeed situated in that city, though, for everyone else, it should be noted that it’s a 0-effort-required job to plug the auction house into pretty much any other fantasy city. Additionally, the pdf does suggest some handy dressing files from the #20-Things-series that you can employ to further enhance the experience, if you need some additional dressing.
Indeed, one advantage this one certain has over previous installments in the series would be the utility of the art-assets: We, for example, get a massive 1-page artwork of the eponymous Raisa, and the pdf actually does come with a one-page handout-flyer. AWESOME. This is how art budget should be used; so the players actually get to see it. Big kudos!

The supplement begins with a brief run-down of the notable NPCs working at Raisa’s—fluff only, as usual for Raging Swan Press. 3 hooks and 12 whispers and rumors are provided as means to lead into the eventure, and as usual for Raging Swan Press supplements, we also get this nifty list of minor events (12 rather detailed ones this time, taking up ½ of a page) that help an environment feel alive.

Now, design-wise, an auction represents an interesting conundrum: If you do plot out the auction in detail, you are essentially teeter-tottering around the risk of it devolving into a railroad, an extended cutscene, where the GM has to depict multiple NPCs, the party interacts with that, and everything becomes confusing or bereft of player agenda. This pdf does things in a smarter and more playable manner that sacrifices being something you can spontaneously pull off in favor of the auction actually mattering, an excellent decision as far as I’m concerned.

Beyond the aforementioned set-up regarding hooks, events, etc., the supplement handles its auction by giving the GM fluff-centric brief notes on NPCs (3 of which get a slightly more detailed take, including a paragraph of read-aloud text), and then presenting 8 curios that may or may not have actual rules-use…these can be items for the auction, sure. But the main star? That would be the 5 lots included. These are specific treasures, including a read-aloud description. They have main powers (usually core/standard magic items) and additional powers that can be useful/elaborated upon, if desired.

The section “Provenance” provides a story-context for the item, and with reserve price and notes on bidding and further development, the lots do a surprisingly good job at contextualizing items that would usually be considered to be less than interesting. How good a job? Well, there is the Ever-True Blade (in a formatting glitch, the “ever” isn’t properly set in italics), which is actually just a +1 weapon with a light effect; and yet, its story context and brief notes did make me actually interesting in an item that couldn’t be duller on a mechanics level if it tried. But the nice thing here is: The pdf seems to be cognizant of the limited direct allure of the items for some GMs and provides design notes for the items, providing some guidance for the GM, for example when it comes to Agananxer’s Wondrous Rod. Will I make the items more unique? You bet I will! Am I going to change the set-up/context? No need.

This is a clever way of handling an auction; sure, it requires a bit more GM mojo and prep-work than the previous eventures, but it certainly has its priorities straight and execution down. So, all great? Well, ideally, the base items would have been more interesting as far as I’m concerned. Furthermore, know what would have really rocked for the PFRPG-version? Ultimate Intrigue social combat support. Unrealistic for such a small pdf, I know, but it’d have elevated this.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious glitches apart from very minor things like the aforementioned instance of italics partially missing. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artworks deserve special applause: I am a big fan of properly used art-budgets, and getting two handouts and a player-friendly, amazing b/w-map in such a small pdf? That’s fantastic indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for screen-use, and one intended for people like yours truly, who prefer to print out their pdfs.

Creighton Broadhurst’s take on roleplaying-centric auctions is precise, executed in a clever manner that prioritizes the right things, and as a whole, represents a supplement I really, really like. I don’t love it, though; As noted, I did not expect to see Ultimate Intrigue support herein, though it would have been amazing; however, it wouldn’t have been hard to add in Sense Motive, Bluff and Diplomacy values for different bidders, nor would it have been difficult to make the items a tad bit more creative. You know, influencing bidding? That’d have been the icing on the cake.

As presented, this is a well-wrought supplement that almost attains excellence; hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, but I can’t bring myself to round up.

Endzeitgeist out.


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5/5

This (final) installment of the Ultimate Campaign plug-ins clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page lead-in + Table-Index (nice), 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so we start with something rather nice, namely a cost differentiation via furnishing quality levels: The supplement introduces 4 new quality levels – 2 below (destitute and poor) and two above (wealthy and extravagant) for rooms, with corresponding effects. Good catch: All rooms take at least a day to make and the cost of a room may not be reduced below zero when skimping on its actual properties. This is just the start, though: The book does something I *really* wanted to get, and that is materials: The book establishes wood as the baseline for room construction and then proceeds to provide a massive table that lists thickness, hardness, HP/inch, costs (in GP and LB), cost of gold and goods per wall segment, and labor/time factors – and the materials are vast: Want that lead-coated lab? Possible. Want elysian bronze or frost-forged steel? Force fields? Well, guess what? Now you can! Did I mention the option to make even stuff from frickin’ viridium? And yes, magical treatment is included. This table is massive, makes sense, and is awesome. Want paper walls? Or ones of frickin’ angelskin or griffon mane? Well, guess what: This has you covered.

The pdf also provides the means for room augmentations: Concealed doors, secret doors, fortifications – really cool! This is a strong start for the supplement indeed!

The pdf then proceeds to do something useful: While I know that my players prefer to *exactly* plan out dimensions of a building etc., I know that not all groups are interested in that sort of thing, so if your group prefers handwaving such details, you’ll still get two different methods that let you quickly calculate the size of a building, one if you haven’t decided on squares for each room, and one that works if you have. This is smooth, and many a table will welcome the increase in speed this offers. Minor nitpick: There is a pg. XX remnant here, but it only would have pointed back 3 or so page, so there’s no comfort detriment here. At a later point, there’s a Table x-5 reference that should instead point to 2-5, but once more, not a deal breaker.

We proceed to cover exterior walls and roofs, including their augmentation possibilities, which include parapets and embrasures, buttresses and more. Windows and the like are covered before the next section that made me smile from ear to ear: MOBILE BUILDINGS. Including walking, rolling, flying, teleporting, etc.! :D Yes, now you can make your own Baba Yaga hut! You can make your own anime-style rolling fantasy-tank fortress! And we get more: Dumbwaiters, dimensional locking, extra-dimensional rooms, stable and sealed environments…and yes, of course, fortifications are also covered.

…know what? It’s really funny. The engine presented so far has actually inspired me as a GM to tinker with the material. It has inspired adventure ideas I need to try out. And we’re just 11 pages in at this point.

The book adds another level of strategy and tactics to stronghold creation, in that it actually takes the terrain into account, with material costs by location! I love this. Chapter 1 is already a resounding success, as far as I’m concerned.

Chapter 2 then proceeds to deal with siege warfare, classifying materials by Structure Points (SP), with conditions damaged, breached and destroyed offering some sensible differentiation, and yes, HP per inch are also provided, allowing you to seamlessly run the respective environments in either “level”; the table has the rather nice additional property of actually allowing the GM to judge, at a glance, whether that spell actually managed to make a dent in the wall. That instance of the party using a wand of lightning bolt to blast through a wall? One glance at the table, and an experienced GM is set to go. Siege-weapon assembly with workers required, costs, weight, etc. is also handled: a heavy trebuchet clocks in at 10 tons, for example, and dismantling it requires some serious damage output! From double to repeating scorpions to springals, this chapter once more delivers and put a big smile on my face. Of course, where there are ranged siege weapons, there’s bound to be ammo, so from caustic shots to fetid (manura, corpses) shots to grappling bolts, there’s a lot going on here…and yes, we obviously also have escalade ladders, bridges, etc. Once more, this is a gem of a chapter.

The book then proceeds to talk about how these downtime-rules-level building rules influence the game on the kingdom-rules-level, which includes accounting for the Ultimate Rulership options and the bombardment rules in Ultimate War. Kudos!

Want more fantastic elements in the game? Well, chapter 4 has you covered, presenting exotic materials like bone or ooze as well as elemental stronghold rules such as sky castles or water fortresses, including unique hazards that can help drive home how unique these places are: Staring through a floor of solid cloud/air can be disquieting, slamming into a torrent of water acting as a wall rather painful – you get the idea. Really neat. If you are less inclined towards the elements, and more towards the fey, you’ll be happy to hear about the crystal palaces, hedge forts…or places with hive walls. Or flesh walls. Or web walls. And what about a castle that literally is a ghost/spirit? Well, guess what? Rules included. Awesome.

The pdf then proceeds to introduce the notion of stronghold spells: Spells that (optionally – and I recommend adhering to that) work only within a stronghold to which the caster is attuned over a multi-day process. This pretty lengthy process also allows for the writing of some cool modules: Hold the fortress until the archmage has attuned to the stronghold! Nice. The spells include means to animate artillery, a battering ram like force bolt, and e.g. a very powerful spell that makes e.g. bardic performance apply to the entire stronghold (cool and sensible in fortress combat under the limitation noted before); extended consecration/desecration that applies to the entire stronghold, animating defenders as undead, making the fortress absorb (or emit) light, an extended variant of expeditious excavation, magical seals, creation of cauldrons, warning against aerial assaults (a magical air raid siren)…and there is a mighty spell that makes it really hard to outcast the lord of a fortress, wo gets some serious counterspelling mojo. This last spell is pure gold and makes sense in so many ways. I have read so many PFRPG spells at this point, it’s not even funny. As such, it should be noted that some of these managing to get me as excited as they did? That’s a big thing.

Next up is the castellan 5-level prestige class, which gains up to +3 BAB-progression, +2 Fort- and Ref-saves, +3 Will-saves over its progression, 4 + Int skills per level, and requires both Intelligence and Charisma 13+ as well as multiple skills at 5 ranks…and a serious inventory of the stronghold. (As an aside: I like story-requirements like this.) Castellans get an investigator’s inspiration, treating their castellan levels as investigator levels and stacking levels for the ability, if applicable. While in their stronghold, castellans can move unimpeded in darkness, through crowds, etc.- - they literally know their stronghold like the back of their hands. Oh, and this includes bypassing difficult terrain (if it’s relatively static), traps, and free action opening of doors, including secret ones. Oh, and they can use a swift action to trigger traps they bypass with a 1 round delay. Chasing these guys in their home turf will not be fun for the poor sods that attempt it! They also have a very keen eye for disturbances in their chosen demesne.

2nd level lets the castellan expend inspiration while making a save in their stronghold, adding +1d6 to the save. The castell and all allies at least 2 levels lower gain a +1 morale bonus to atk and damage and a +1 dodge bonus to AC while in the stronghold. These bonuses also apply to skill checks when operating siege engines. 4th level upgrades that to +2 and lets allies who gain this bonus within 30 ft. of you ignore difficult terrain and gain the door trick. You also get to use inspiration as a standard action to inspire competence or courage as a bard (again, stacking if applicable). 3rd level allows the castellan to use their inspiration to duplicate a variety of magical effects pertaining to the stronghold, including some of the new stronghold spells.

At 3rd level, we have a +2 circumstance bonus on all opposed checks in the stronghold, immunity to feat and a +2 morale bonus on all saving throws (+4 vs. mind-affecting), and, if a spellcaster, immediate action inspiration use for counterspelling. This level also allows for object related magics via inspiration-expenditure. 5th level nets Leadership (or an upgrade for it) and the option to teleport around within the stronghold via inspiration use. I’ve seen a lot of PrCs. This is a great one. It’s focused without losing its theme, it has some seriously cool narrative tricks, and manages to capture the feel of the concept very well. Kudos.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very strong on both a formal and rules-language level; with the exception of the XX-remnants noted above I noticed no issues worth complaining about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artworks provided will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. Now, there is one thing that made me grit my teeth: This book has no bookmarks. NONE. For a reference pdf that you’ll use time and again, with tables and all; that’s a SERIOUS comfort-detriment as far as I’m concerned. If you only want to go for the pdf, detract a star from my final verdict. Personally, I’d recommend getting print + pdf anyways for this.

Ben Walklate and Jason Nelson deliver pure frickin’ excellence.

Want to know more? Okay, so, if you’re using the kingdom building rules, this s a must-own purchase, but you already know as much by now, right?
Well, even if you are NOT interested in kingdom building AT ALL, if you couldn’t care less, this is STILL worth its asking price. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to play a badass siege scenario? The castellan PrC can make for a truly frightening boss for a party to face down…or intercept! The stronghold spells will require some serious thinking and tactics even from the notoriously powerful PFRPG adventurer group trying to best a stronghold, and the plethora of siege weapons and their stats alongside the wealth of cool global features for fortresses is useful in regular dungeon design as well.
In short: This is a fantastic purchase even if you really don’t like the regular kingdom building/mass combat rules!
So yeah, this is an apex-level product, Legendary Games at their very best. It’s good enough that I can’t bring myself to strip a star of my final rating for it, in spite of the annoying lack of bookmarks. However, there is one thing the book has to lose, and that’d be my “best of”-tag, which it *REALLY* deserved; for a module, I might have shrugged off the lack of bookmarks, but for a rules-book, that really hampers the utility of the pdf. Hence, my final verdict will “only” be a resounding recommendation to pretty much all fans of PFRPG’s first edition, with 5 stars + seal of approval. For use at the table, get print; other than that, there is no caveat that diminished the unadulterated joy I felt when tackling this book and its content.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

This installment of the Star Classes-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreon supporters.

So, this pdf starts off with a somewhat troubling observation that was pretty widely-spread at the start of the system’s genesis, namely that the envoy is too weak. This notion is one that is understandable, as it is born from the approach of looking at the envoy as though it was a PFRPG-class; it is still an assertion that doesn’t hold up to actual playing experience. The envoy is an excellent support character in SFRPG, with unrivalled Stamina replenishing options, among other things. The envoy isn’t strong in the sense that their direct damage output is concerned, but in the way in which they act as a support character and damage multiplier for other classes. They are, in a way, both the party face and commander, and unlike the bard, they have a lot of different routes to go by.

In order to put the “weak” envoy class into context, let us take a look at it before going into the nit and grit of this book.

The envoy’s clever feint lets you select an enemy you can sense and make a Bluff check. If you FAIL, the enemy is flat-footed against you through your next turn. If you SUCCEED, this extends to the entire party. This is a LOT for a standard action, one of the best reliable debuffs there are. Dispiriting taunt is also a potent reliable option. At 4th level, with clever attack, you get that for free. Mathematically, alternating between Clever Attacks and full attacks will net you a higher DPR than sticking to full attacks – even if you’re on your own, without the impact this has for your allies! Combo’d with convincing liar, this is even more brutal.

Get ‘Em lets you retain your damage output due to the activation action, and doesn’t require a skill-check, so it’s consistent. Improved get ‘em makes a strong option even better. Sudden shift is a great commander repositioning gambit that is super useful and phenomenal for realigning the battlefield. Same goes for hurry – while it doesn’t seem to be as potent on paper, cover and positioning are more important in SFRPG (they make up the equivalent of 3 – 4 item levels in AC!) than they were in PFRPG, so yeah – potent even in its base version. This is btw. also the reason watch out is pretty darn awesome in all but melee. This one is particularly hardcore when combo’d with an operative. And the improved version? Grant an ally an extra standard action SANS RESTRICTIONS. Don’t quit allows you to help ignore save or sucks.

Inspiring oration is a gamechanger that can and will make the difference between success and TPK more than once. Inspiring boost is better than the mystic’s spells for instances where you need to keep the party going through multiple encounters…etc. And that’s just the basics.

Add to that the solid chassis, and you may not be out-DPRing the operative, but frankly, I’d rather have an envoy in my SFRPG party than a mystic in most circumstances. Also, know that the envoy has grenade proficiency, and that they can cause choking and are super cheap?

The envoy doesn’t have to be a fighter if they don’t want to be one—you can actually play a pacifist envoy and still contribute to the game without sucking. They are an excellent support/buffing/debuffing class that has a ton of no-limit abilities and transcends all comparable SFRPG-classes, and if you want to play any type of leader-style starship captain? Envoy. The class is incredibly cinematic in its playing experience, and frankly, I’ve never seen an envoy not rock in play.

So yeah, I think that the central premise underlying this supplement is WRONG.

That being said, let us take a look at the suggested modifications to the envoy class: The pdf suggests providing an additional expertise talent at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, rather than every 4 levels. Additionally, the pdf suggests Extra Resolve as a free bonus feat at first level, as well as Combat Familiarity for free. Additionally, this pdf suggests getting rid of the prerequisites for any envoy improvisations, and if you do meet these prerequisites, you get the rapid action improvisation for the improvisation as well. Rapid action is a new 4th level improvisation that lets you choose on envoy improvisation that doesn’t require an attack roll from you or your ally, reducing the action to activate by one step. The improvisation may be applied up to twice to another improvisation, and it may be chosen more often. This is very strong – and ultimately not that rewarding, as it gears the envoy towards doing the same thing over and over instead of diversifying the tactical options.

The pdf also suggests one envoy improvisation per level, and at 10th level, the rapid action improvisation for all envoy improvisations. The pdf does note that these should NOT all be used at once, and that they should be added if the class doesn’t perform in the way you want to.

The pdf then provides two archetypes: The engram channeler has alternate class features at 2nd, 4th, 6th and 12th level, and the 2nd level ability nets an untyped +2 bonus to Engineering, Mysticism and Physical Science, and this bonus is also added to allies benefiting from Aid Another. 12th level provides a tale 10 option, take 20 with Resolve expenditure. The 4th level ability lets you meditate to manifest an incorporeal engram with KAC and EAC 15 as well as 1 Hit Point per level and SU flight using your skill bonuses. Problems here: ACs don’t scale, and if it’s destroyed, you lose “all engram-based abilities” for the day – okay, what’s that? All archetype-granted ones? This should have been clarified. At 6th level, we have the means to use a standard action to “trace a path up to 60 feet long” and make one attack targeting EAC. All enemies in that area take “1d6 electric[sic!] damage” – allies are exempt, and you are proficient and gain weapon specialization with it. Okay, this is not how the like is phrased in SFRPG. Also: 1d6?? At 6th level?? WTF. This should scale.

The second archetype is the polymath, whose alternate class features are at 2nd, 6th, 9th and 18th level. 2nd level nets Second Identity, one of the new feats herein, as a bonus feat, and you may choose it multiple times, selecting a new theme each time. Second Identity lets you choose another theme, and switch between your themes in a process that takes one hour, but thankfully not the ability score bonus. 6th level lets you make Disguise checks (not capitalized properly – quite a few formatting snafus in the book; skills and Resolve often erroneously in lower caps, for example) when changing identities to escape notice. 9th level lets you spend a Resolve Point to change identities “As a full-round action.” *SIGH* This action does not exist in SFRPG. 18th level lets you have the benefits of two active themes at once.

So, what about the improvisations? 2nd level has an option to ignore immunity to mind-affecting effects with your envoy improvisations, which is something I can get behind, but probably would situate at a higher level – or, even better, make the immunity selective and scale with class level/CR where it applies. Beyond the aforementioned rapid action, we have the option to spend a Resolve Point to make up to Charisma modifier allies not surprised when you aren’t. Anatomical exploit is a bit weird: When you or an ally deal damage, you get to spend a Resolve Point to add your expertise die to the attack’s damage roll. Hint: This is usually NOT worth spending a Resolve on. Oh boy, +1d8+3 damage at 17th level. If you spend Resolve on this ability, you’re frankly doing it wrong. Adding a penalty to saving throws to the effects of get ‘em can be found here; get out there lets you spend a swift action and a Resolve Point to select an ally – this ally acts on your initiative count -1, rather than on their own. At 12th level, this applies to Charisma modifier allies. Okay, so what if the ally has already acted before the envoy? No idea. The weird thing here is that this improvisation RAW exclusively works if the envoy is faster than the ally. On the plus-side: Spending a reaction and a Resolve Point to make an ally reroll their save, with a per-rest caveat? Yeah, I can see that one!

The 6th level improvisations include an option that requires you spend 1 Resole Point and a move action and it provokes enemies into attacking you, but also grants allies AoOs versus them if they do. 10th level upgrades this to also include you. Considering that making an AoO requires a reaction, this one is a risky gambit. Compare that to continued inspiration, which lets you, as a standard action, extend the effects of an active envoy inspiration that usually lasts until the end of your next turn. This applies to allies within 60 ft. Okay…by how long? By a round? No clue. The ability doesn’t say. Using Resolve to change the flat-footed, off-kilter or off-target penalty to a crippling equivalent of your expertise die? Oh, and what about replacing the benefits of your covering fire, harrying fire or flanking to expertise die for one round? Brutal. This should definitely specify that the effects only apply to a single target per use. Compare that with push onwards: That one lets you, as a move action, grant an ally within 60 ft. an untyped +1 bonus to saving throws, and a save to prematurely end an effect on them, with 10th level upgrading that to AoE. The upgrade is very strong – the base version? Not so much. I also don’t think that a flat end should be here; since Don’t Quit already is perfectly serviceable.

The 8th level improvisations include expert attack sans Resolve expenditure, Intimidate when an ally affects or damages a target, and reaction inspiring boost? Can see that one.

The pdf also provides an array of new expertise talents that include broader proficiencies, the option to add expertise die to an ally’s check via aid another. I also liked the option to forego adding the expertise die when intimidating targets already shaken to increase condition severity. Indeed, the expertise talents with their options to forego adding the die for various effects. 1/day planar binding as a SP is interesting, and avoiding zone of truth etc.? Yeah, I like that. (As an aside – in this section, the persistent lack of italics for spells, which are sometimes presented in lower caps, sometimes as though they were feats, really irked me.) Depending on your build, always getting to roll expertise die twice and taking the better result can be a bit over the top.

After this, we have an extension of skill uses: For example, using Bluff to appear as though an attack was lethal, or fool targets to think that another person made an attack. The latter can be very strong, just fyi. Calling for a truce and striking bargains, feigning death and manipulating your vocals, intuit assumptions and relationships – this section is pretty nifty and interesting. The new feat section includes rendering allies adjacent to you immune to being flat-footed, which can be pretty potent. Substituting a guarded step for an AoO, executing a combat maneuver or making an attack against a creature missed by an ally can be found. Another feat lets you substitute a critical effect that hit a target within the last round for your own – not sure if this is worth the feat. Reduced penalties for Deadly Aim exists, and Escape Route makes you not provoke AoOs when moving though spaces adjacent to your allies – this one is pretty epic with its tactical implications. I also liked Squad Maneuvering, which lets you take a guarded step as a reaction when an ally moves through one of your spaces. Squad Flanking is over the top: When you and an ally are adjacent to a creature, the creature is automatically flat-footed against your attacks—note that this is not an envoy-exclusive feat, and it has no prerequisites. Unbalanced Attack is pretty much…well, unbalanced. When making a combat maneuver versus a flat-footed target, you execute against KAC, not KAC +8. Remember: Another feat makes flat-footed versus you pretty much a given. Still, as a whole, there are more feats here I enjoyed than ones I’d consider problematic.

The pdf closes with envoy creatures – a CR 16 vesk, a CR 18 copper dragon, a CR 9 human, a CR 10 devil, a CR 5 android, and a CR 6 oulbaene. The latter has the boldings missing in the offense section. The dragon lacks them in the first section. Statblocks featuring fly speeds don’t specify whether they are Ex or Su, and the devil lists a maneuverability of “good”, which doesn’t exist in SFRPG – that should be “average.” So yeah, couple of snafus here – the creatures are usable, though.

Conclusion:
Editing is weird and oscillates between being very precise and well-done, and being problematic. The same can’t be said about formatting – it’s just bad. If something has a formatting convention in rules, there’s a good chance the book misses it. I expect better from Legendary Games. Layout adheres to the series two-column full-color standard, with full-color artworks, some of which will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.

Matt Daley, with additional material by Jeff Lee, Lyz Liddell, Jason Nelson and Mike Shel, delivers a somewhat uneven supplement here, probably due to the different authors at work here.

For a context that explains a lot: This book was released right in the time of the early days of the system, when the backlash to the envoy was in full swing—it took time to get used to the class, and as such, I think that the suggested power upgrades can and should be ignored.
Thankfully, the book isn’t all about ramping up the power-level of the envoy, though it does require close GM-scrutiny—some aspects are imho OP. The incisions into the action economy of the class can end up being very strong, and I also think that quite a few of the options provide pretty excessive numerical boosts. That being said, at the same time, I can see several genuinely cool options in this book, and I’ll definitely pick a couple of them and add them to my game’s roster. Still, as a whole, the book is not a particularly unified experience regarding quality and power-level of its content. Now, usually, I’d consider going slightly higher for the gems herein, but considering the consistently and annoyingly flawed formatting here, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This installment of the Eventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As usual for eventures, the focus in this supplement is not combat or regular dungeon exploration, but instead a more social setting; after all, not all adventuring needs to be done with blades a-gleaming and spells a-burning, right? It’s an event-adventure—an eventure. Anyhow, as such, this eventure is best-suited for the low-level regions, and is nominally situated within the Duchy of Ashlar, the region in which most current Raging Swan Press supplements are situated.

To be more precise, the eponymous Scythe is a dingy hovel of a tavern situated in the Low City district of Languard, which is itself lavishly-detailed in the City Backdrop: Languard and the Languard Locations-series; if you do own these supplements, the tavern does gain some seriously nice context, but if you don’t, fret not, for the tavern is easy enough to integrate into most cities. It should be noted that the Scythe is full mapped in gorgeous b/w with a proper grid; the map is actually mostly player-friendly, with the exception of a single indicator that can be considered to be a SPOILER. I tried using this in FGU, and there is enough space around the indicator to make it “vanish” until found by drawing the walls differently, but a version of the map sans the indicator would have been appreciated nonetheless. The map is pretty detailed and comes with a grid, so functionality is definitely provided.

Speaking of functionality: We do get values for food and drink, as well as a rundown of staff and regulars at the very beginning, and the place pointed out on a detailed map of the district of Languard, so you have a nice introductory cheat-sheet from the get-go.

Now, it should be noted that the tavern holds a secret, which, unlike the things encountered in most eventures, may well spark conflict; the NPCs referenced throughout, including this section, note alignment, gender, species and class + suggested class levels, but do not provide actual stats, so if you want to go into the combat route, be aware that you may need to do some stat-crunching.

Now, the actual eventure follows a similar formula as the inaugural installment of the series, in that you use the first night the first time the PCs visit, the second night the second time they visit, etc.; for that first visit, there are 4 solid hooks provided, and we do get not one, but two lists with 6 minor events and 6 whispers and rumors each (so 12 per category) to add additional local color to the tavern.

Very helpful: Each night is grouped into a variety of events, typically around 3, sometimes more, sometimes less—these include dealing with arguing couples, rowdy drinkers, visitors from the feared Wrecks, bards performing (including larger crowds), beggars, performers…and, as hinted at before, a subplot focusing on a secret. None of these events are monumental, but they do an excellent job grounding the proceedings in between adventures, though e.g. brawls and guard interventions may well happen.

As a whole, there is one primary weakness to this inexpensive offering, and that would be the absence of hard rules for this supplement; while nominally dubbed Pathfinder, this has no DCs, not even for gathering information, provided; if you wish to run the combat-angle, the suggestions for the NPCs etc. would make this work only for the lowest levels, which does sell the otherwise awesome stage short. It is particularly weird to see a reference to a Barroom Brawl without mechanics, when Raging Swan Press has published a very good and inexpensive supplement handling that.

Beyond its content, the supplement also provides a couple of suggestions for further adventures.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious formal hiccups or rules-language issues; not that there’d be much in the ways of rules herein. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes in two versions, one designed for the printer, and one made for screen-use. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience. The map is mostly, but not entirely, player-friendly.

Creighton Broadhurst has a well-deserved reputation for excellence in his writing, and this supplement is a great reminder for that, as far as the fluff goes. When it comes to actual rules, this supplement is even more anemic than most Raging Swan Press offerings; this genuinely straddles the border of what one can still call “Pathfinder-compatible”, with only class references truly being a reference to actual mechanics.

In many ways, this aspect does hamstring the supplement a bit; getting at least some Bluff or Sense Motive or Sleight of Hand modifiers would have been nice; heck, the secret I alluded to should have some sort of DC associated with it…but alas, nothing. Now, if you don’t mind the absence of any useful rules and are willing to do some minor crunching/adding in re the Barroom Brawl supplement, then this becomes a resounding recommendation! For the low and fair price, you’ll get some cool scenes to add in between your modules. If you do mind this and want something that’s mostly ready to run, then the complete absence of even skill values may limit this to the extent where it becomes less appealing.

Now, personally, I think this works better than “Night of the Masks”, but it also is *almost* the system neutral version and doesn’t add system-relevant aspects that should be there. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the low price point.

Endzeitgeist out.


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3/5

This installment of the Eventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

In case you were wondering “Eventures” was not a typo; these little supplements depict events, adventures, if you will, that do not focus on combat or the like. Instead, we get detailed set-pieces that focus on a key concept and how to execute it in a rewarding manner. As such, the supplement does not note a level-recommendation, though I personally would situate it in the level 1-10-region of play. For high-level play, the grounded tone may seem a bit off. In fact, I recommend running this at lower levels; the lower, the better. I’ll get to the reason why below.

In this instance, we have, obviously, a masquerade, a truly fantastic experience if you ever have attended one, and as soon as travel becomes possible once more, I do encourage you to add attending a masquerade in Venice to your bucketlist.

In this instance of this eventure, though, the masquerade is assumed to take place in the lavishly-detailed city on Languard (which I, alongside the Languard Locations-series, heartily recommend) in the duchy of Ashlar, the region that many of the more recent supplements released by Raging Swan Press take place. While the scenario does involve some political ramifications for Ashlar, it is easy enough to strip of its subdued local color and adapt to your game.

Beyond a basic array of hooks presented for the party to attend the eponymous Night of Masks, we have a sidebar that explains, commedia dell’arte-style, the names and codified types of masks worn at the occasion, which did indeed bring a smile to my face. Similarly, a basic code of conduct is presented.

The night itself is structured in 4 phases, which should not constitute spoilers: First the guests arrive, then the nobility, then some politicking is done, and then we have the unmasking; much to my pleasant surprise the order of arriving nobility is presented in detail (that’s important, after all!), and 10 supplemental minor events allow the GM to spice up things easily and without much fuss. The supplement also includes a couple of rather nice more fleshed out events, which include nobles with uncommon tastes, mask-switcheroos and what may or may not be a case of poisoning. 9 specific guests of interest come with more detailed descriptions, including read-aloud text and a general notion of their alignment, age, gender, race and class + levels, but no actual stats are provided.

The manor-esque part of Castle Languard in which the masquerade takes place comes fully mapped by legendary Tommi Salama in b/w, and is awesome; the player-friendly, key-less version was, to my knowledge, made available to patreon supporters of Raging Swan Press. The pdf includes 8 brief sections providing slightly more details for individual locations, such as the balcony or hedge-labyrinth.
Beyond this cool locations and set-up, we also receive 5 hooks to build on the things introduced in this eventure.

…so, all cool and dandy? Well…no. This is, in effect, a system-neutral supplement that eschews doing what makes masquerades hard to run, and I’m pretty sure that this won’t survive contact with most groups. Night of the Masks commits one cardinal sin: It doesn’t account for magic or the rules of the game. So, poison-scenario. “Damn, I cast detect poison!” And there goes your political intrigue.

This issue is particularly egregious in Pathfinder, where we have an entire hardcover devoted to stuff like masks and intrigue. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called Ultimate Intrigue. So no, no social combat stats or the like included, alas. And, you know, I can still kinda get behind that.

But we don’t even get DCs to identify people and see through disguises. And again, yeah, it’s kinda understandable that this isn’t the focus, when every key player is supposed to be easy to identify. But, well, once you insert a switcheroo plot, that sort of thing becomes relevant. In that way, this book pushes all the really hard work, accounting for magic, security measures, decorum, DCs, etc., on the Gm. And for me, that severely limits the appeal of this supplement.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious formal hiccups or rules-language issues; the latter primarily due to the grating absence of these elements. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes in two versions, one designed for the printer, and one made for screen-use. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience. The player-friendly map is not included in the download.

Bart Wynants, with additional design by Kat Evans, does a fantastic job at setting the scene, and evoking the flavor of the masquerade. There is no doubt about that.

As a Pathfinder-supplement, though? Even as a rules-lite one, this does fall short, as it fails to account for even the most rudimentary stumbling stones that one can encounter when attempting to run such a scenario in the system. There is no nice way to say this: This is a non-conversion as far as I’m concerned, and I’d have as much work with this, as I’d have with any supplement depicting a masquerade ported from another system.

If you’re here for the flavor, you won’t be disappointed; if you want more, then this’ll leave you disappointed. My final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

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!

On the first page of this supplement, we have a contextualization of the formian race within the Xa-Osoro system before we dive into the formian paragon archetype, which requires, obviously, that you’re a formian. This archetype nets you hive indoctrination as an alternate class feature, which nets you a (Caste) feat. If you choose Aristrocratic Formian, you can opt to become Large; if you opt for Worker Formian, you can choose to become Small, and these do not influence your reach. If you already have a (Caste) feat, you can choose to get a feat that lists the (Caste) feat as a prerequisite. At 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level, you can gain a feat that lists formian as prerequisite as a replacement class feature. Note that, since SFRPG explicitly calls it out when you no longer need to meet prerequisites, the formian paragon still has to meet these.

Now (Caste) feats are mutually-exclusive – you can’t belong to more than one, and even e.g. mnemonic editor can’t help there – only options that alter race or genetic code can change (Caste) feats.

Aristocratic Formian lets you inspire those that share your language as a full action, which nets the benefits of covering fire or harrying fire to all creatures in range of your limited telepathy or telepathy. You then choose Diplomacy, intimidate or Profession (orator), and if your skill check exceeds the opponent’s KAC by +8, the effect triggers when an ally attacks an opponent or is attacked, respectively. So, instead of fixed AC, KAC+8…so, treated as a maneuver re AC…that’s a pretty big limitation. With the telepathy upgrades available, this becomes better than Suppressive Fire, affects more targets, etc. It doesn’t consume ammo, and it is situationally better than harrying shot, and that’s a 17th level ability!! That being said, it does have a pretty strong limitation with the maneuver AC limit. Still, as a whole, I think it’s prudent to watch this very closely, as the telepathy-basis AND skill-use can become problematic. Skills do scale differently than atk, so this definitely warrants watching. Depending on your game, this may be too strong; personally, I think it would have been prudent to instead take a look at the envoy here, but YMMV. Personally, I wouldn’t allow this one in my games.

Mental Motivator is exclusively available to Aristocratic Formians, and allows you to, as a move action inspire a creature in range of limited telepathy or telepathy, granting a +1 morale bonus to atk, saving throws vs. charm or fear, or skill checks for Charisma modifier rounds (minimum 1). The feat notes interaction with the ability of the same name – and formians with the ability count as Aristocratic Formians for the purpose of prerequisites…so that’s a means to dual-caste regarding follow-up feats, I guess. Aristocratic Formians that chose to become large may take Imperial Reach, which nets the formian 10 ft. reach. The other feat available for Aristocratic Formians would be Formian Stinger, which nets your unarmed strikes the injection special property, and “injection +2” (should be “Injection DC +2”) critical effect, and when the formian rests 10 minutes to regain Stamina, they produce 3 doses of formian poison that may be transferred to the stinger as a swift action. The poison has a scaling DC, a frequency of 1/round for 6 rounds and uses Dexterity as the track. This feat may also be taken by Warrior Formians.

Speaking of whom: Warrior Formian (Caste) lets you make a melee attack with your stinger (unarmed) as a move action when you maintain a grapple. Armored Chitin nets Warrior Formians +1 racial bonus to AC when wearing armor, and reduces armor check penalty of heavy armor by 1. The third (Caste) to choose would be the Worker Formian (Caste), which nets you 5 more bulk before becoming encumbered or overburdened. Burrowing Worker nets you ½ base speed as burrow speed; upon taking this the second time, you get full speed as burrow speed.

Beyond these (Caste) and caste-based feats, the pdf also presents a selection of non-caste-specific feats. Empowered Formian Telepathy upgrades limited telepathy to telepathy 30 ft., and if you take it a second time, up to 100 ft. Resonating Chitin nets you a +2 racial bonus to saves vs. sonic effects or that deal sonic damage. Additionally, sonic resistance increases to character level or 5, whichever is higher. Fists of Fusion is probably one of the most interesting feats herein: It requires Improved Unarmed Strike or natural weapons, and allows for the enhancement of the body with fusion seals, applying the effects to unarmed strikes. This allows for the use of seals as magitech augmentations, and for their wearing as hybrid items that may be affixed to a piece of jewelry. This feat is pretty interesting, and allows you to get rather brutal unarmed/natural attacks.

The pdf also includes the Hive Mind feat, which nets you a +2 insight bonus to initiative and Perception, and if a member of the hive mind sees past an illusion, all members do; similarly, surprise can only be achieved if all members are surprised. Nice adaption of the racial trait, rebalanced and bonus type-wise codified for players. Expanded Hive builds on this feat (or the hive mind racial trait), and allows you to bring any ally within range of telepathy or limited telepathy into your Hive Mind, which makes the allies gain the appropriate benefits as though they were formians.

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

I like Jacob McKiernan’s formian options as a whole, with the (Caste) feat concept making perfect sense to me. At the same time, the Aristocratic Formian base feat has me somewhat concerned and could have been solved more elegantly – it probably should get a revision at one point. Still, all in all, a solid, if not mindblowing expansion for the formians. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

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!

All right, after a brief bit of context of gene reconstruction and body modification in the Xa-Osoro system, we begin with a new soldier fighting style, the shifter. These fellows have natural shapeshifting powers that help them in combat – at 1st level, we have shifter’s strikes, which lets them execute natural attacks with any body part (and that is better than many people give credit for if you’re creative!) and they don’t count as archaic. Better yet, you get to choose whether to deal nonlethal or one of three physical core damage types with each strike and gain improved Unarmed Strike. This is a picture of precision. 3rd level nets the unique weapon specialization of character level + soldier level to damage with them, which makes them mathematically scale in a more viable manner. This also gets interaction with natural weapon-based unique weapon specialization right. 5th level nets at-will 1st-level polymorph into one of 4 forms chosen from either mystic or technomancer class; you can redesign one per class level attained, and 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter, you get an additional form.

At 9th level, we have Polymorph Adept, which may be used with aforementioned ability, and you get to keep benefiting from armor and gear boosts while it’s merged with your form. At 13th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point when using the shifting ability or Polymorph Adept to use the ability as a standard action or the feat as a move action. At 17th level, action economy improves by a further step. At 17th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point when using shift shape or Polymorph Adept to merge two polymorph forms or merge a base form with your true one. I love this fighting style. IT#s unique, captivating and precise.

The second class option here would be one for the mechanic – a new artificial intelligence, the nanohive. At 1st level, you may, as a move action, initiate host reconstruction, granting you class level fast healing, which improves by 1 at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. This lasts for Intelligence modifier rounds, and at the end, you must succeed on a DC 15 Fortitude save – or your sleep deprivation DC, if higher. Each time, the DC increases 1 and it resets when regaining Stamina Points from spending Resolve and resting 10 minutes. On a failure, you are fatigued and incur a penalty versus saves that cause the asleep condition. If already fatigued, this gets worse. Here’s the issue – sure, falling asleep and taking a -4 penalty upon being woken is bad – but this is still infinite healing. The nanohive grants +1 to Fort-and Will-saves, which improves at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter.

5th level provides an improved variant via host reconstruction – one based on 1st-level polymorph (italics missing) as a move action; it’s self-only, and requires a save as per host reconstruction at the end. Here’s the catch – you get to choose whether the nanites incorporate the items worn within you, or if they reassemble them for your new form. You also get 4 polymorph forms chosen from the mystic’s assortment, and may reassign one per class level attained. The spell level of the ability improved by 1 at 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter. At 7th level, gaining either fast healing or using the polymorph-function both are enhanced (with further steps at 14th and 17th level). At 10th level, you may initiate both simultaneously, but doing so makes you automatically fail the save at the end, unless you spend 1 Resolve Point, in which case, you may make the save as normal – but both are treated as different uses for the purpose of the DC. 15th level further upgrades the effects of both nanohive uses, and 20th level eliminates the duration and makes you auto-succeed the save.

Coordinated assault and control net are both adjusted to offer proper nanohive synergy.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, excellent on a rules-level. 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 length.

Alexander Augunas’ polymorphic options range among my favorite class expansion trick-pdfs in SFRPG so far b- both are unique, conceptually interesting, put a neat twist on polymorph and also add a whole new character concept to the classes they expand. I could see sample PCs/NPCs in front of my mind’s eye while reading this – rather impressive. 5 stars + seal of approval, very much recommended if you want some bioweapon badassery for your spacefarers!

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

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!

Okay, so if you don’t have the Occult Skill Guide: Classic Corruptions (WHY? That book is AWESOME!), the pdf does reprint the therianthrope template graft for your convenience. Therianthropes are btw. sapient creatures that have been corrupted with bestial instinct and rage, and the rules presented within do cover the wolf-like, most famous therianthropes, the werewolves, and more – two sample statblocks are provided, the first of which would depict a skittermander weremonoux operative (CR 3), and yes, before you ask, the grafts have been properly applied. Did I mention that I love skittermanders? :D

Of course, a classic werewolf can also be found – this build (CR 7) uses a human soldier as a baseline, with blitz fighting style and, much to my pleasant surprise, gear boosts noted as well. Cleave as a feat choice makes sense for the build, and the natural attacks as well as the melee focus of this fellow tie the build together well. Oh, and there is a new armor upgrade, the magical level 1 nanite reshaper that makes the armor automatically adjust to the shapechanging of wearers. The pdf also includes a new feat, Aspect of the Beast, which nets a vesk’s natural weapons racial trait, only that it’s MORE precise than it – it does properly specify damage type!! Oh, and at higher levels, the attack starts counting as magical and is treated as progressively better special materials – yep, including adamantine at 19th level. And if you already have natural weapons, you get these enhancements sooner. Kudos!

Finally, the supplement covers the one thing I had already structured as a “I’ll complain for a paragraph about this”-section when I opened this pdf – the supplement actually specifies how therianthropy works, at least to a degree. In a science-fantasy game such as Starfinder, having this flavorful elaboration of how moonlight triggers the transformation is rather cool indeed. Kudos for the extra mile regarding flavor here!

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

Alexander Augunas delivers here – the therianthropes in this supplements are well-presented, and while personally, I prefer unique bloodlines for each type of therianthrope, the catch-all template-graft does an admirable job at providing one graft, but making it possible for the graft to provide a wide variety of different builds, courtesy of synergy with the polymorph-engine presented by Starfinder. All in all, a great little supplement, well worth its asking price. My final verdict will be 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This massive, colossal doorstopper of a tome clocks in at 626 pages of content. No, I am not kidding. This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to one of my readers actually sending me a print copy of the book with a request to review it.

Beyond the challenges 2020 held for all of us, this book proved to be a challenge to review in a couple of additional ways for me, ways which I simply had not anticipated. As a consequence, this review will be structurally a bit different from what I usually write.

First of all: What is this? It is important to note that Ultimate Spheres of Power is not (only) a compilation of the original book and supplemental material presented in the various expansion books (up to and including the Wraith, Fallen Fey sphere and Blood sphere are included); unlike many minimum effort compilation books, this tome actually did change some material and integrate feedback gathered during the original file’s circulation. It also does not include every bit of content from the expansion books for the spheres, which means it does not (completely) invalidate all those supplements—if you’re playing without that much regard to internal/external balancing anyways. If you do, then, and let me make that abundantly clear, then this book mops the floor with the previous incarnations of the books.

If you’re new to Spheres of Power, you can read reviews of the system and all books/pdfs compiled and refined in this book on my site. This book contains a ton of classes, spheres, feats, favored class options, items, incantations, etc.—this is one of the books with the highest rules-density I’ve ever covered.

Which brings me to the two ways one could look at this, and these require a brief look at the history of the system; please bear with me, this is going somewhere.

When Spheres of Power was originally released, it represented a widely-popular tome – and deservedly so. The Vancian spellcasting system with its spell-blocks is certainly charming and useful, but there always was a desire out there for casting to a) behave more in line with what we experience in books and the like, and b) spellcasting to behave in a way that is less overbearing. In short, Spheres of Power wanted to rebalance magic and make it feel more magical at the same time. The point-based spellcasting system made more sense to many people than the Vancian spellslots. And in the eyes of many, me included, it delivered on these promises. For the most part.

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t clearly state that, to me, these benefits outweighed some of the issues that even the original book had, for example how dippable it was, the lack of power-parity between the various spheres, and quite a few more. I should have been harder on the original book, but the freshness of its design, and its vast amount of options outweighed the rough patches for me. That, and I didn’t yet have the same amount of experience with the rather intricate system...and how it changed. Still, even back then, I should have been harsher on e.g. the Dark and Light spheres being somewhat limited when compared to, let’s say…Telekinesis, Conjuring or Creation.
It’s not hard to see e.g. the Destruction sphere outperforming the Light sphere in damage; that was intentional. But the lack of parity also extends to utility, and some spheres that really needed an upgrade didn’t exactly get it. Compare e.g. Alteration and Weather, and you’ll notice that these are not equal in utility; perhaps more obvious would be the comparison of Divination vs. Fate.

That being said, the original Spheres of Power book had this very pronounced notion, this design goal, of allowing us to play mid-tier/low-fantasy, or choose those high-powered advanced options for high fantasy; this division was not consequently maintained throughout the run of all those expansion handbooks. Indeed, one of the issues that only slowly materialized in my tests, was that there was no real guiding oversight regarding the power-levels of the expansion handbooks; strong spheres became even stronger, while weaker spheres were upgraded to parity with the original spheres. This inconsistency in power-levels was rather insidious, in that it happened gradually. And it’s understandable: You design for one sphere, do cool stuff—it works, nice. But the line of where, if at all, to draw the high-fantasy/optional line became ever blurrier, and in later supplements, often primarily was employed solely for high-impact abilities with serious potential for incisions into planned narratives.

And frankly, in hindsight, I can say that I’ve failed as a reviewer for quite a few of these expansion books was seen within the context of this system; the perspective I assumed became too much inundated with mainstream PFRPG or higher power-level material that didn’t care about balancing as much (speaking of which: the Path of War content has btw. not been reproduced herein); I lost sight of the original promise of Spheres of Power, the original vision of a more even caster-martial approach, of optional, more powerful tricks that were clearly categorized. Throughout the series, it transformed to provide a power-level roughly on par with regular casters, in some cases exceeding them in numerical depth and action economy, if not in breadth.

This being said, the following points should be taken in the context of someone genuinely loving this massive doorstopper of a tome: These issues may or may not come up in your game, but since they apply globally, I considered them worth mentioning.

If you expected a return to this original promise of the Spheres of Power system, alongside a streamlining of the material released since, and the implementation of this material in a stringent regular play/advanced play-paradigm, then this book, in spite of its changes, will be a resounding disappointment for you. While Ultimate Spheres of Power does a lot right in these regards, it does not manage to reign in the power-increase due to synergies and the increase of options available, nor does it really establish a clearer baseline of power among spheres.

That being said, it should be emphasized that Ultimate Spheres of Power is a much smoother experience than using the original Spheres of Power alongside all of the expansion books; it is evident in quite a few cases that the system has indeed been playtested more thoroughly, not simply jammed together, with some of the more powerful options eliminated. The by now notorious incanter dip has been nerfed slightly, for example, though the paradigm of “giving up stuff later to gain power now” can, unfortunately, still be found. And you can still multiclass out of having to pay out.

So big suggested rule #1 for using this book: Limit multiclassing.

Big rule #2: I’d strongly suggest limiting, or at least very carefully vetting content from the Player Companion line by Paizo when using this book; the player’s companions, while often interesting, are also not balanced in a tight manner, and I found quite a few combos of the materials in this series and Ultimate Spheres of Power that allowed for really nasty tricks. This is not necessarily the fault of Ultimate Spheres of Power, but it’s something to bear in mind; the book hasn’t accounted for some of the more broken combos that can stem from interacting with these.

Another difference of Ultimate Spheres of Power in contrast to its predecessor would be partially due to its increased amount of material, and that would be action economy, and its system-inherent consistency: Quicken Spell in spheres costs a whopping 4 spell points; but casting is not either a standard or an immediate/swift action – it is much easier to gain casting for standard, move, swift, and free action going in spheres; there is a lot to optimize, and that is generally something I enjoy. However, I do believe that the system would benefit from global guidelines regarding spell point cost and casting action economy, because a decently-optimized caster does have a higher nova-capability than necessary, performing on par (or beyond) with save-or-sucks of Vancian casters. An easy way to mitigate that would have been an introducing of something like the martial focus employed in Spheres of Might – that way, combos would still be possible, but needed to be deliberate. As such, I do, particularly if a campaign’s supposed to reach the mid-to high-levels, recommend introducing such a mechanic…or at the very least, to impose a hard cap on benefits attainable via free actions.

In absence of these, let me propose big rule #3: Cap bonuses and debuffs at +/-5. It’s no surprise that PFRPG’s math becomes a bit wobbly at higher levels, but with Spheres of Power, some of these number-escalations can hurt a bit more; if you want to really make sure to maintain something akin to the series’ original promise, carefully vet all increases to caster level in particular, and cap those numbers.

The other, similarly subtle issue that can still be found herein, would be that the spheres are not consistent in how they value bonuses and bonus types; it is no secret that I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to those, and there are a few instances where the types don’t make sense regarding their value or type to me. It’s also worth noting that it’s pretty common to have buffs and debuffs scale up to +7/8 at higher levels, which is farther than most class options go; again, strongly suggest capping those.

That being said, these issues, while very much indisputable and present, are by NO MEANS dealbreakers.

Indeed, after going through this huge tome with a relatively fine-toothed comb, I can comfortably ascertain that the tome clearly works better than the collective of expansion books; and that is an achievement; indeed, I think the Drop Dead Studios crew must be lauded for it, lauded for the streamlining and improvements that went into this book. It should also be noted that the implementation of italics in this book is much smoother and more consistent than before.

Which brings me to the layout, which is more important for such massive tomes of content: On the plus-side, we have color-coded chapters, and one glyph for each sphere; if you flip through the massive spheres-chapter, you’ll have this glyph on the border of the page as well, allowing you to quickly skim through the physical book and find the proper sphere’s information – two thumbs up for that. It made navigating this huge tome much easier. That being said, I kinda wish the glyphs had also been used in the feat-chapter, which is GINORMOUS. We’re talking about slightly more than 50 pages of feats. Yes, that’s FIFTY, as in 5-0. Granted, this might be me having a visual mind, but I think it'd have been helpful to have each sphere-specific feat have the associated sphere-glyph, with dual-sphere feats having two glyphs. The feat-chapter also uses yellow as its header-color; granted, not the eye-hurting yellow of the original Illuminator’s Handbook, but it’s still yellow text on a background that’s not that much darker; having the letters sport a black outline would have significantly enhanced the readability of the chapter as far as I’m concerned.

On a rules side of things, the book has taken a more stringently-curated approach than the individual handbooks, with uses of e.g. Everybody Games’ excellent antagonize mechanics (which should have been core) and Spheres of Might, as well as psionics, taken into account, among other aspects.

…and honestly, without going into a level of detail that would render this review all but useless to most people, that’s as much as I can say about this.

You can find the conclusion of my review by clicking here!


An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, want to play a character who is down to earth, but not a halfling? Someone who is (bad pun incoming), real “salt of the earth”? And you’d like to play something weird, a race you haven’t played in another d20-based game? Well, I’ve got something here for you! Loamlings! Kindly and patient mole people! Wait, that didn’t come out right. I’m not talking about the mole people as per the traditions of superhero comics and weird fiction, but of literal, anthropomorphized moles.

This uncommon ancestry is Small, gets 8 HO, has a speed of 20 ft. (and burrow speed 10 ft.), and the ability boosts go to Constitution and Wisdom, with the third being free; the ability flaw is assigned to Dexterity. Starting languages are Common and Sylvan, and loamling claws grant them an unarmed attack at 1d4 slashing damage, with the agile and finesse traits, which is treated as in the brawling group. The burrow speed applies to sand, soil, snow, etc., and you get to choose whether the tunnel collapses or stays open; if it stays open, Small or smaller creatures and Medium creatures that Squeeze, can Crawl through. Collapsing the tunnel behind you runs potentially the risk of suffocation, and scent-based perception is reduced to 20 ft., but you create enough of a disturbance to still allow others to follow you. Loamlings have a scent-based perception and only see clearly up to 10 ft., with 60 ft. scent as a precise sense – and yes, this does allow for the targeting of spells. However, you are immune to gaze attacks and visual effects unless they originate from within 10 ft. Anything outside that range, and you’re blinded to it.

This is a pretty epic and complex change of pace: On the one hand, we have a rather severe and meaningful incision into how the ancestry places, but one that is counteracted by some seriously powerful benefits that have a ton of narrative potential. Can you see, öhm, I meant “smell” the basilisk shepherds? I sure as heck can!

The pdf provides 4 different heritages: Blufflings get better claws, with 1d6 slashing claws that also have the versatile (piercing) trait; darklings get 90 ft. precise scent (30 ft. while burrowing) and can smell incorporeal creatures. Fieldlings decrease the effects of environmental heat by one step and gain Natural Medicine (I appreciate that, having worked on fields in some summer during my youth…), and finally, rootlings get Combat Climber, and when you succeed on an Athletics check made to Climb, you get a critical success instead. You also need only one piece of fresh fruit to stay hydrated and fed for a week.

The pdf provides 6 ancestry feats for first level characters: Here we have talking to burrowing creatures, a feat for being so cute that you gain Shameless Request (and +1 for Deception-based initiative rolls), one that nets you trained proficiency rank in Nature and Survival, as well as Loamling Lore. Loamling Weapon Familiarity nets training in hatchet, light pick and pick, as well as access to all uncommon gnome weapons, with martial gnome weapons treated as simple, advanced gnome weapons as martial. So yeah, you get hook hammers and my beloved flickmaces. One of the level 5 feats nets the respective critical specialization effect, building on that. At level 13, when you gain expert or greater proficiency in a weapon, you also extend that to the loamling/gnome weapons…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Another feat upgrades claw damage to 1d6, or if you are a buffling, 1d8 + deadly d8 trait – ouch! You don’t want to mess with those claws. There also is a reaction-based feat, Hit the Dirt!, which can be triggered while touching ground and hit by an attack that deals your level or more damage, whereupon you take the damage and then dig straight down by your burrow speed. This is a very potent tactical trick if executed properly.

5 ancestry feats for level 5 are provided: building on aforementioned claw-improvement feat, we have the option to apply the unarmed attack’s critical specialization; another feat lets you automatically Cover Tracks while burrowing, including full speed while Avoiding Notice etc. while burrowing. I can smell the smuggling plot. Speaking of which: Detect magic as a primal innate spell at will, automatically heightened to a spell level equal to half class level, rounded up. Sounds cool, right? Also comes with +2 circumstance bonus to disbelieve illusions that do not include smell or olfactory stuff.

The 3 level 9 feats include burrow speed upgrade to 20 ft., half your level Hardness during the round you emerge from the earth (Dirt Armor), and the ability to use earth to Raise Shield a one-use Shield Block shield of earth. I really like this one, and wished it had been, in a modified version, available sooner. Really cool!

The remaining 2 (talked about one before) level 13 feats include not having your scent-based sight reduced while burrowing, and another feat enhances both Soil Shield and Dirt Armor. At level 17, we have a 1/day summon elemental heightened to 8th level, earth elemental only. True Scent lets you sniff through illusions, and potentially discern the truth behind polymorph and similar effects. Finally, we have another upgrade for Dirt Armor, which no longer falls apart after 1 round, instead lasting until you lose half HP or are critically hit. While you’re at lower than half maximum HP, the Dirt Armor is less effective.

These rules are all supplemented with proper and rather well-written prose that outlines the ancestry properly.
Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level; I encountered no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard, with quite a few original pieces of Jacob Blackmon’s artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, but at this length doesn’t exactly require them.

Michael Sayre’s loamlings are an interesting sight (pun intended), in that they offer a variety of different tactical options that are truly novel and unique; powerful, yes, but also limited in an intriguing and rather creative manner that significantly influence how the race plays, for good and ill. This is the type of design-paradigm I enjoy seeing.
That being said, there is one thing that needs to be noted, and that would be that a player-race with such a burrow focus requires a bit more consideration on part of the GM. While dungeons can’t usually be burrowed apart by loamlings, e.g. smuggling, burrowing in cities and similar scenarios might require some consideration. In an ideal world, some guidance for handling warfare with e.g. loamling sappers, buildings made less stable, etc. would have been awesome to see, because that sort of thing is inevitably where my mind goes. Additional magical detection and protection versus burrowing intruders in the form of magic items, rituals or spells would also have been nice to see, but then again, all of that would have significantly increased the page-count of this supplement. Still, as a GM, I think the race would have been easier to implement with a few supplementary pieces of information and (mechanical) guidance. I also think that the influence of e.g. (magical) perfumes or particularly bad smells, scentblocking effects and how the loamlings perceive the world is a treasure trove that can (hopefully) still be explored in an interesting manner in future publications. Within its limited frame, this pdf does its job very well, but left me wanting more.
As such, my final verdict remains at a heartfelt recommendation of 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This supplement clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, this book is all about filling a mechanical need. Namely, to add in weapons for trick attacking at all levels. Like the first of these gear books, this supplement begins by clearly laying out its design concerns and the issues it tries to fix.

The book begins with a clear analysis of the curve for the weapons, including correctly discerning that the 1st and 7th level weapon perform above their peers, and takes the Starfinder Armory content into account as well – and the design paradigms underlying those, including how they interact with core rules. E.g. switchblades, etc. keep the damage of knives while expanding the utility – design in breadth, if you will. This book, then, provides versions for the weapons to fill the gaps. It should be noted that not every level is truly mechanically distinct: A survival knife and a survival knife 2 and 3 are base-damage-wise identical, but have different levels and increasing costs – which is relevant for seals and fusions. Then again, e.g. the hunting knife 3 (level 6) does get a damage increase to 1d8. The tables provided in this book also clearly designate the weapons from the big Starfinder books in bolded script – very helpful.

And the pdf goes a step further and manages to include some differentiation between these upgrades – at level 14, we have, for example, a power sap! (I don’t know why, but a powered sap is such an outrageous concept, it just made me smile. I can picture the sap with this glowing tech-cylinder striking, then a discharge of steam as it kicks in…it’s weirdly hilarious to me…and yes, there is a level 20 neutron star sap.)

And the book goes one step further with this very transparent approach that lets even GMs not usually interested in the nit and grit of design discern what’s suitable and what isn’t, as the pdf walks the reader through the design concerns by weapon type. I very much enjoy this transparent design approach, as it a) shows the degree of thought that went into this and b) means that I don’t have to explain why the design decisions made are valid.

Anyhow, the pdf features separate tables by weapon type, and the pdf actually provides…*drumroll* errata for some of the…let’s say…problematic aspects of the Armory book. Like the damage output of e.g. gale batons. Two big thumbs up!

So, is all great? Well, almost. I have checked the entire array of tables herein (and yes, that was some serious work) and consider all components added to the game herein valid; but I also noticed a glitch in the one-handed advanced melee weapons table. EDIT: This glitch has been rectified!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level; with the glitch purged, this is a precise and well-wrought pdf. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard with nice artworks included. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver a *really* handy booklet that pretty much all operative players will definitely want to take a look. This pdf fills a hole in the game, and does so in a well-reasoned and clever manner. Math-wise, the content herein is well-balanced and performs in line with SFRPG. This is so ridiculously useful for operative players, I do feel comfortable in granting this my EZG Essentials tag; not having to switch weapon category is a big deal for me. EDIT: The glitch has been taken care of, which upgrades this to 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This massive tome clocks in at 435 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 2 pages of KS-backer thanks, leaving us with 427 pages of content.

…okay, 3 are an index, which is a very much required feature for a book of this length.

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue as a priority review by my patreon supporters. Oh, and I’ve had various iterations of this book available throughout its genesis, just in case you’re wondering how I can have a review of a book of this size done at release. It’s because I’ve been able to test this as it became more and more refined for quite a while.

The first thing you need to know about this is this: This is one densely-packed colossus of RULES. While there is flavortext, while there are artworks galore, this massive tome is essentially ALL FRICKIN' RULES. That is more page-count than e.g. two Alien Archive tomes back to back. And approximately half of it is player-facing stuff, which might make this one of the meatiest tomes of player options for SFRPG out there, perhaps even the meatiest.

As you can glean from its sheer size, the volume of the book makes an analysis of every single piece of content prohibitive – while possible, it would take weeks of dedicated work to talk about everything, and bloat the review to a wordcount that would all but ensure that nobody will read it in its entirety, so I’ll be giving you a general overview of what to expect within this tome, highlighting what particularly stood out.

As for the scope of this tome, it behooves me to state that this delivers several components of gameplay that I consider all but mandatory for my enjoyment of SFRPG: This book unites rules for age categories (mechanically-relevant), rules for ritual magic, rules for corruptions, rules for curses and diseases that include level-scaling, and size-change rules, including the tools for grid adjustments. Oh, and pact magic.

If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll note that all of these are things I love…but this also means that this has very big shoes to fill, and usually safe bet books that I think I’ll love end up disappointing my, but I digress. The avid reader will have noticed at this point that some of these components have been released before, and indeed, in many ways, this is a best-of compilation of previous Starfinder-material released by Everybody Games, save that it’s, well, not just a simple compilation. Much to my pleasant surprise, I went through my previous reviews of individual files and realized how damn often the minor niggles I had were addressed, how often the designs had been adjusted, improved, smoothened.

But I’m getting ahead of myself once more. We begin with an assortment of various new themes, which includes the options to play old characters, young prodigies, chosen heroes, isekai adventurers (people from our world), and those who have fallen through time; and yes, the concept of the chimeraborn is also represented via mutations – these have been streamlined into a superior context, namely by making them functional according to the COM-rules, but also in accordance with the PF2-inspired, highly modular and rather cool species reforged series of Star Log.DELUXE-pdfs. Want proper emotional awareness, a draconic bloodlines, or limited ability for regeneration due to levialogos limbs? You can have that. And no, this can’t be cheesed.

(In case you’re new to the latter: The levialogoi are super-deadly and EXTREMELY hard to kill outsiders inspired by Supernatural’s Leviathan story-arc. They are awesome and have transcended this basic concept to being essentially all-consuming, nigh-unkillable super body-snatchers...and yes, they are in the bestiary.)

The book also presents no less than three base classes, with only the zoomer, the dedicated speedster class being something that SFRPG-fans may have seen before, though, suffice to say, the fellow’s been expanded and streamlined. The two new classes fill important niches in SFRPG that will have some fans jump in the air: For one, we have a dedicated shapeshifter class, which begins with a limited number of dedicated forms and expands these over the levels; adaptations allow you to customize your shapeshifting, aspects provide scaling benefits (4 per aspect); beyond these, we also have instinct, which are the talent-like further options available…oh boy can you tweak this fellow. Yes, you can make hybrids. And the class has its own massive forms-engine to easily and quickly tailor your forms. Want to crush enemies? Have a breath weapon?  Yeah, possible. Want species traits? Yup. Oh, and in case you don’t want to wait, guess what – premade forms available. This is a class with an incredible depth, and considering how modular it is, it is astonishing how well its results come out. So far, I haven’t managed to use it to break the game – it delivers potent builds, but none that would render the game askew.

Secondly, we have the elementian. What’s that? Well, it’s essentially a kineticist-like class, save that its engine hasn’t been copy-pasted from PFRPG; instead, it has been rebuild from the ground up with SFRPG in mind, with the Burns-equivalent being Strain. It should be noted that the class offers multiple choices regarding key ability modifiers, and the option chosen also influences how Strain affects you. You can gather power to gain Energy, you get the idea. However, the way in which the elements have been modified is impressive – while thematically clearly the heir of kineticists, the elementian’s chassis is completely different, with each element noting its associated ability score, skills, weapons, the elemental strike damage and weapon properties that can be applied to them, etc. Of course, these also provide a linear array of abilities, and a serious number of techniques allow for customizing this fellow. It’s also notable that building an elementian for the first time is a much quicker process than making your first kineticist.

Now, the book also features a serious number of archetypes, some of which are old acquaintances – the legacy ones like shadow dancer, eldritch knight etc. are here; but personally, I was most excited by the pact maker (who does what it says on the tin)…and the soulmark user. What’s the latter? Okay, brace yourselves, fellow otakus: Fate/STAY – the archetype! You know, drawing soulmarked weapons from your body! Seriously, in another book, this’d have been a class of its own – here, it has been condensed to a surprisingly tight and varied archetype that spans two whole pages of delicious goodness. Oh, and there is a terminator archetype that essentially replaces/refines the previous assassin concept. I have one serious issue with this one: It lacks an ability that is called “I’ll be back.” ;) Kidding aside, the concept of the vessel has also been included in this section: Whether protean, demon, angel, archon, etc. – you can play a character housing such a passenger.

Of course, there is also a whole cornucopia of class options waiting for you: We occult method as a replacement for the biohacker’s scientific method and fields of study like aberrantology or necrology. Mechanics can have an infernal apparatus or a biomech drone chassis; solarians can be attuned to the music of the spheres; vanguards can choose the zero point aspect – and that is not even coming close to the depth of the material herein. For example, what about a witchwarper who replaces infinite worlds with a more planar-themed ability? The feats, in case you were wondering, follow similar high-concept/utility design-paradigms. What about one, for example, that lets you summon fictional characters from the zeitgeist instead of plain old critters? And yes, this has mechanical benefits.

The armory section of the book includes positron weapons that combine electricity with positive energy, and, as hinted at before…SHRINK WEAPONS! :D Black boxes for armors, a powered armor designed for fighting ghosts…or what about the option to store your vehicle in your armor? This might be a good place to note that, like all books of this size, this cannot be perfect – in this one, we have for example one instance where “vehicular” should read “vehicle”, but one still grasps the functionality of the material presented. Augmentations and cybernetics, from extending arms to golemgrafts and necrografts complete a pretty massive chapter, and yes, technological and magic items are included in the deal as well, and we do get artifacts…yes, including the infamous time-traveling hot tub. The new drugs presented are provided in the excellent format introduced in Pop Culture Catalog: Vice Dens, which renders them scaling and relevant for all levels.

The chapter on magic presents new spells that allow, among other things, to alter ages and sizes, call forth temporal duplicates…and yes, limited time manipulation. Several pages of new formwarps are included alongside a selection of rituals, which do include means to lock out targets (one of the best “create a barrier vs. critter xyz” takes I’ve seen for a d20-based game, and pretty crucial for my future horror-y designs), using your blood to banish foes (Heeellooo Supernatural once more…), and much to my joy, there is also the call the end-times, your friendly custom-tailored apocalypse ritual for all your insane cultist needs! (Endzeitgeist not included.) Binding agreements, clone creation, dividing targets into multiple creatures…or what about fantastic voyage, which projects your consciousness into nanomachine effigies, unlocking a whole new sphere of potential adventuring in creatures and on the microscopic level! The classic “use map to narrow down on target as it burns/otherwise designates the goal” is also provided. Rites to break potent spells, imprison targets, robotize them, etc. are also part of the deal. And no, I haven’t even mentioned all of them – suffice to say, they do come with adventure hooks. Not that you’d need them after reading them. The “design your own ritual”-section is super-appreciated as well, and rather smooth.

The pact magic section of the book is absolutely great; there is but one thing I dislike about it – namely that I’d have loved to see an entire tome devoted to it…one might dream. At this point, it’s also no secret that I adore Alexander Agunuas’ corruption rules, and have blood space, botanification, cannibal cravings etc. all in a handy book? Great. Ever greater, though: What about a corruption that ties in with the size-changing rules and makes you slowly become a titan, as “Attack on Titan”-titan? Yeah…*shudder* The cognitive fixation that can be used to roleplay intrusive thoughts is also one damn fine (and very tactfully-handled) piece of writing that gets two thumbs up. Levialogos subsumption, in which you slowly are absorbed into one of these monstrosities, also is one damn great corruption. You may want to get rid of it…but its benefits are so enticing…Going Akira, aging backward, going soulless…also part of the deal. (And yes, the classic like turning into a blob, therianthropy and vampirism are here as well…)

Curses include eternal sleep, wendigo psychosis, lost identity, amnesia and more, and from cures to affixes to modify them, the engine is concise and solid, and for diseases, a similar frame is employed.

One of the highlights in utility would be the handy grid adjustment section I mentioned before – that’ll be printed out and tacked to my screen. And in case you were wondering: The book does provide rules for ultrafine creatures…and supercolossal ones, the latter including rules for use in starship combat. Speaking of which: Let us talk about how cool the bestiary section is, because not one of the critters in it is lame or boring. NOT ONE. What about an earth elemental creature consuming emotions, aptly named apathyst, which also is presented in planetoid size as a nasty alternative? A best-of from the Star Log.EM-series is provided here, including Deisauryu, the Godzilla of the Xa-Osoro system; new critters include shrink devils, and one of my all-time favorurite critetrs every published, the Great old One Allakhadae, the Arsonist Against Reality. Speaking of Great old Ones? Good ole’ Cthulhu and Hastur are included, and our friend Slenderman also gets the Great old One treatment – The Tall One. Yes, these fellows are all beyond CR 20, obviously. Unlike many critters at such high CRs, they are, however, actually suitably hard (read VERY) to stop. Yes, I did not use the word “eliminate” for a reason…

Beyond these, we have aforementioned levialogoi, soulless, killer clowns…and hateflesh creatures. They are what you’d expect: Super-icky flesh/bone things that reminded me of Tomb raider 1’s Atlantean monstrosities, save they are even more grotesque… ”sinewed screamer” indeed. What about wererenkroda? One of my favorites would be the “thing-That-Walks”-template graft. Remember Kyuss and the worm-that-walks? Now picture you could make such a collective entity out of everything. The artwork illustrates this by providing a nightmare fuel kitsune thing-that-walks: Humanoid, consisting of thousands of the shapechangers…and boy it is disturbing. Want something more biblical? What about the beast with 7 heads and ten horns, the Woe of the Dead (CR 25)? Yep good luck stopping this harbinger of the end of days… The tome concludes with proper class grafts, template grafts, and a whole arsenal of critter abilities.

You can find the conclusion of my review here.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

The second pdf in the series of NPC Codex books released under the Book of Beasts-line clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, in case you didn’t know, the presence of the word “Codex” in the title implies that this book focuses on crunch and statblocks, though, unlike most such supplements, the statblocks provided here, more often than not, actually do come with a bit of flavor, offering notes for a sample NPC, and where sensible, some brief notes on the NPC in a combat encounter or even some roleplaying tips regarding the NPC in question. Nice.

The book contains one magus-build for every single level, ranging from level 1 to level 20. The builds for level 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, and 16 are the statblocks that do not come with the flavor information for a specific NPC, in case you were wondering. The builds do offer tactical notes for running them before and during combat, and where applicable, base statistics are provided. Spellbooks are also noted in the gear where applicable for non-spontaneous magi – if you’re like me and loathe fleshing these out, that’s a big plus.

Now, as for the builds, we might begin with al elven magus at level 1, but after that, the builds quickly go more unconventional routes regarding the combination of classes and races, and the individual builds. The level 2 magus, for example, would be an oread shock trooper for the shaitan armies. There are no “statted up” builds herein, by the way – each level gets its very own build, no easy progressions of one build provided for several levels, as one often gets to see in codices.

The versatility of the builds is pretty interesting: At level 3, we for example get a hobgoblin that is supremely maneuverable and good at getting into melee, but not as good at getting out of it, as the build has no Acrobatics – an intended choice to make these raiders feel like a hard-hitter and not a guerilla fighter. The gnomish wild skirmisher is a different take on the concept, an eldritch scion’d magus with clever bloodline powers working in tandem to offset the less impressive base damage this one offers. It’s more trick-based, as befitting of the theme – though I probably wouldn’t have called the build skirmisher.

The elf-raised half-elf moon knight does the whole elvish knight angle well, with the sample NPC never managing to meet his elven sire’s approval. What about a goblin with a really fiery build? Blargg Firespitter as the sample flavor works as an adventurer-exterminator for a dragon, by the way. Love that concept!

The level 7 back alley avenger Lauren Nightfire made me flash back to Arrow; short of a vigilante-dip, this is pretty close to what you’d expect, with slow, alter self, web etc. giving off a low-key magic vigilante style, supported by excellent Ride and Stealth skills. For a more classic blade dancer-ish build, the Aerobatic spellsword (spell dancer level 8) is a classic agile, skirmishing high-threat-range build. The tiefling helltouched archer instead presents a ranged combat-centric magus build.

The wyvaran build at level 10 focuses on aerial assaults supported by spells, while the level 11 weaponbreaker combines high-crit with, well, you guessed it, sunder. The hailstorm harrier staff magus is pretty disruptive and also based on aerial superiority (and has a minor typo in the tactics section – “spellcasting” instead of “spellcaster”). The dagger-throwing ratfolk magus with its skirmishing tricks is pretty interesting, the NPC information hinting at the local Ratfolk Collective, which is an angle that makes sense for them. Nice!

Beyond that, we have a powerful level 14 hexcrafter as the final archetype’d build; levels 15-20 are all straight magus builds, though the focuses range from samsaran scholar and a halfling magus by class, burglar by trade to the classic retired adventurer, an ifrit general, a wyrwood elder, and finally a dwarven dealmaker with the forces infernal at level 20 – in case you’re using AAW Games’ gitwerc, this one is a great addition as a mighty ally to the agents of HEL. Just sayin’…

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are both rather impressive; while a few formal hiccups may be found, none of them compromise the builds in a significant manner. Formatting is generally just as tight: Italics are where they should be, and the same goes for bold components. Nice. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a black border on one side; it looks elegant and distinct. Artworks are full-color pieces and well-chosen, though they will be familiar to most 3pp-fans out there. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Dale C. McCoy, Jr. delivers a series of unique, well-wrought builds with some cool character nuggets thrown in. The builds are distinct enough to feel as though they have organically grown. Want 20 distinct magi? For a super-fair price point? Then get this pdf. The bang-for-buck ratio is very strong here, and the fact that we get distinct builds for every level, instead of just progressions, is the icing on the cake. Inexpensive, convenient, cool – 5 stars + seal of approval. If you need some neat magi, grab this.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This massive module clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 2 pages introduction/ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 84 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, this module is intended for level 20 characters, and mythic ones at that…mostly, that is. You see, the introduction of the adventure actually lists difficulties by mythic tiers, and these assessments are VALID. And yes, the module can be tackled without mythic powers, but that makes it one of the hardest modules ever, and means that pretty much every single battle risks TPKs. Still, if you’re like me and want a combat-puzzle par excellence, this might be worth contemplating. I generally recommend it for mythic tiers 1-5 for the best results; sans mythic tiers, it is ULTRA-brutal. The module also makes use of a TON of books and assumes serious PF1-familiarity. Then again, it’s a capstone – and not just for an AP. In a way, it’s a loveletter to the system and to what only PFRPG delivers with its intricate, strategic combats.

And to Golarion.

Much more than any other Legendary Games supplement, this makes a TON of use of the setting; from Castle Korvosa’s cellars to obscure metaplot references, the module features A LOT of little tidbits that the savvy fan will notice and appreciate. But how? Well, here’s the thing: While Legendary Games can’t well use Paizo’s IP, the renamed components are VERY CLEAR, and in the beginning, a handy list of terms/names is provided. With these, the module is one name-exchange away from being pretty much a module steeped in obscure Golarion lore. I love that, particularly considering that it’s an alternate post-finale-ish module for Return of the Runelords.

At this point in time, PF2 and the AP are old enough that the existence of New Thassilon is not a SPOILER anymore – but this module poses a question: What if? What if the final runelord Sorshen (here genderswapped as Kazsethil, the fellow on the cover) had a bid for global dominance like the others and stuck to evil guns? That one phenomenal bid for all or nothing, that bookend to the age of rising runelords? This module follows this train of thought, and I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying that the module’s structure and challenges, to a degree, remind my of ole’ Karzoug and Xin-Shalast, and similar high-fantasy scenes from various APs. In fact, it almost feels a tad bit more audacious, more willing to embrace ultra-high fantasy – and that’s a good thing, for structurally, this is a kind of dungeon with a planar theme. In a relatively clever bid, it does not try to limit the capabilities of the characters, which is a good thing. Indeed, the module walks a good tightrope when it comes to making the party actually explore the dungeon instead of bypassing it – so kudos for that. While I personally prefer event-driven/grand scale operations in high-level gameplay, this does an admirable job when it comes to making an ultra-high-level group actually crawl through a dungeon, so kudos there.

While we’re on the topic of structures and formal criteria: The module has hyperlinks for less commonly used spells, etc., we have read-aloud text, etc., and while I haven’t reverse-engineered all statblocks herein, I did the math for a couple, and was actually duly impressed. While there are glitches here and there, these tend to be in sections that matter less, like a ranged weapon for a melee-focused combatant, etc. Unless you’re diving into the nit and grit of the numbers, you won’t run into issues on the rules-front GMing this.

I own both the pdf and the PoD-softcover; the latter has no name on the spine, which is a bit of a bummer. And which brings me to something I usually don’t mention in my reviews. Ever wondered why there aren’t more high-level modules? I mean, okay, they are hard to run, and harder to design…but that’s not all, right? Right. You see, high level adventures tend to sell not particularly well. They’re a small subsection of a subsection of the market, and this module, in many ways, feels like fan fiction that managed to get published. WAIT.

I do NOT mean that in a disparaging way! Not in the slightest! Some of the best Ravenloft material ever written was penned by fans! And in many ways, this module reminded me of the good ole’ Kargatane and Fraternity of Shadows, save that its content, well, is for Golarion. What do I mean by that? Well, for a Legendary Games book in particular, the shoestring budget is somewhat evident. The maps are not impressive, at best okay and certainly are not as strong as many Michael Tumey has made in the past, and no properly-sized keyless player-facing versions are included, and the maps have 10-ft.-grids, which is a HUGE pain in a game where pretty much all abilities are based on 5-ft. grids. So yeah, you’ll have to redraw all maps. That SUCKS. I hate it.

The majority the full-color art will be familiar for many GMs; particularly the layout irked me a bit: The lower border is reminiscent of the Horror-plug-ins in style (which is nice), but out of some strange glitch, the lower page border and the red seven-pointed star are very pixilated, which makes the lower border look messy. As a consequence of the pixilated lower border and the less than appealing maps, this is not an aesthetically-pleasing module. These rough edges also extend to the editing part; while the module can be run in a clean manner, there are quite a few hiccups, including rules-relevant (but minor) ones that do accumulate throughout the module.

And yet, it does have something that many, many published adventures lack. An audacious love of the subject matter that oozes from every damn page of the module. The tactics and builds themselves help running the complex encounters, and from creature choice to scenes, the module pulls no punches.

Heck, if you want to hear this module’s whole appeal made awesome-cheesy metal track, listen to “Beast in Black – Unlimited Sin” – the back cover’s tagline is by no accident an indirect variation of that song’s chorus. Picture the bombastic melodies and synth blasts of that track made module. That’s this adventure. And I mean this as someone who adores this track. This pumped up, hyper sense of epic conflict? Yeah, that’s the tone of this module down to a “T”.

Okay, this is pretty much 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 GMs around? Great! So, the first combat pitches the party, as they try to stop Kazsethil, against two elite guardian troops (CR 18), a draconal agathion (CR 20) and a CR 20 paladin. Yep, you heard right – Kazsethil, as the runelord of lust, has a surprising variety of devoted minions in the highest echelons of power, including characters that can be made to see the error of their ways; the module also spends quite some time explaining the individual character’s reasonings and how they may or may not remain loyal – for example the CR 21 nosferatu sorcerer, who may well be aghast when he realizes that he’s nothing more than a disposable guard dog…

From here, the trail leads to the Crimson Ziggurat (including notes on how teleportation’s a bad idea through a pillar – and we then turn to the paradisiacal gardens of the runelor…äh, pardon, “sinlord” – essentially the “high-level plant/beast”-level, where the party has a chance to face off with a giant swarm-blooded 18-headed mythic hydra. CR 23/MR 8. This build…made me cackle with GLEE. Glee, I tell you!! It’s such an EVIL build. Love it. Of course, the PCs may also run afoul of an ancient paradise dragon and 4 planetars. You know. As you do. Just one further encounter. Oh, and yes, mythic dimensional lock and mythic guards and wards in place.

To make that abundantly clear: I am smiling a very wicked smile as I’m typing these words. And that’s the start. From here on, we venture into Kazsethil’s proper dungeon, where highly volatile damaged portal tables: What about a massive miniature city that acts as a kind of imprisonment focus? Or a stone colossus that is the prison of a frickin’ INFERNAL DUKE? Heck, his concubines are CR 18 succubus mesmerists (yes, PLURAL), izfiitar proteans. Oh, and super high-level vampires, infernal champions and more await en route to the catacombs, where familiarity with Thassilonian magic and its themes is truly rewarded. Here, the eldest lamia, hemodynamic clockwork fiends and psychic lich arcanists await alongside soulbound warmongers. No, that’s not the level’s boss encounter.

See what I meant with “this module does what only PFRPG delivers” – in many ways, each combat herein, to some degree, is a brutal test of strategy, power, and genuine system mastery skill. The trompe l’oeil magus kensai that wields the sword of lust being one particularly noteworthy monster of a battle. The sepulchers of the other runelords, represented by runeplated akaruzugs, even have a whole page-table of infused attacks/custom SPs. And then, below, there is the Shining Elder, the creator of rune magic (CR 26/MR 10; and if that looks too puny for you, guidelines to ramp the fellow up to CR 30 are included…) – defeating this ally of Kazsethil may well restructure the order of magic (a perfect explanation for changed rules if you’re planning on transitioning to PF2, introduce Spheres of Power, akasha or Grimoire of Lost Souls or something along those lines in your next campaign!).

Oh, and all of that? That’s but a prelude in comparison to the true finale. You see, Kazsethil seeks to merge with the very fabric of nature, becoming essentially a cosmic law – and he’s not dumb enough to face the PCs alone. Colossus. Advanced elohim. Runeslave Runegiants. Sinspawn champions. A full-blown, fully statted ultra-high level adventuring group. Oh, and Kazsethil. Good luck. Your players will need it. All those tricks, all that experience? The party will need it. Desperately. (As an aside: If you wanted to use Spheres of Power in your next campaign, the book has you covered, and the whole “creator of magic/paradigm change has help for the boss the there…)

The module concludes with an alternate 8th sin (doubt) and items/artifacts as well as a feat and aforementioned hemodynamic construct template – and the rune of transgression spell.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules language level; on one hand, the highly complex high-level builds are better and more inspired than I expected to see, but there also are quite a few minor hiccups, though none that truly impede the module. Layout, as noted before, is weird – the pixilated lower border really irked me. In combination with the lack of player-friendly maps sucks; the maps aren’t particularly impressive, and use a 10-ft.-grid, which makes running tactical combat in PFRPG a huge PAIN. You’ll need to redraw all of them for 5-foot-squares, as the module really requires that level of tactical precision in combat. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the softcover, as noted, doesn’t have the name on the spine, which is a bit of a bummer.

Oh boy. Matt Daley’s “Sentence of the Sinlords” is a really tough cookie for me to review. Because it is, in many ways, a pretty flawed adventure; the requirement to redraw maps alone, and the lack of player-friendly maps, is a pretty big downside, particularly considering how tactical this module is. How finely-calibrated the combat encounters are to push the PCs to the limits and beyond. This, all on its lonesome, would usually sink the module on a personal level for me.

The shoestring budget is very much apparent, and in some ways that are not only not as aesthetically-pleasing, but frankly inconsiderate. The map-redraw situation alone is a big no-go. I should punish this module for it and rate it down to the vicinity of the 3-star region. And yet…

…to say it with aforementioned song: “Unlimited Sin, Unlimited Power – that’s the price you must pay” – that was my credo when I prep’d this. But why would you bother dealing with that, when there are so many other modules out there?

Well. There are almost no adventures out there that deliver what this one does – this level of challenge, this level of audacity and full-blown embracing of apex-level combat action. In many ways, Sentence of the Sinlord is a resounding success that OOZES passion from every page, testament to the love that the author professes for the game and setting in the introduction.

If you are like me and value substance over style, value ambition and creativity over perfection, then this may well rank among your favorite modules for the system. Heck, with the sheer number of ultra-deadly high-level builds herein, this module could be scavenged for super-enemies and campaign endbosses for years.

In a way, this reminded me in some ways of Coliseum Morpheuon, save that it was built with PF’s by now increased power-level in mind. And that is a high, very high compliment. Since Rite Publishing has gone semi-dormant right now, feeling this vibe once more made me smile from ear to ear. I know that Steven D. Russell (R.I.P., my friend) would have approved of this module.

As a reviewer, this leaves me in a precarious position: As a person, I’m saying “screw the flaws, I’ll fix the downsides, this is too cool”, but as a reviewer, I genuinely should trash this module.
I don’t want to.

So, once more: This is a flawed module. This might be a 3-star module, perhaps even a 2-star module, for you; if you just want pretty original art and maps, this is not the module for that. If you want an audacious, deadly, tactical love-letter to Golarian and the age of runelords, then this will make you smile from ear to ear. As such, I feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. And since I, as a person, really loved this, it does get my seal of approval.
I want to see the author write more modules. I’d love to see if he can maintain this level of energy throughout a whole campaign. There is a joy here that is impossible to fake, and if you want to see more, more high-level modules, more adventures that dare to be this deadly, this difficult, this joyously high fantasy in the best of ways, then please get this adventure. This deserves a spot in your collection, in spite of its flaws.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

2/5

This installment of the Star Classes-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, this supplement begins with a discussion of components that the supplement defines as problematic at the table – these are, for one, MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependency) of Charisma, Constitution (though to a lesser degree due to how SFRPG operates), and Dexterity/Strength, depending on the build; this is a factor that could ostensibly be deemed to be intentional, though I do agree that the solarian suffers from needing to split their focus thus. The second factor is a BIG one, and one that is impossible to dispute – the solarian has dead levels: On level 5, we have a resistance increase for solar armor, on level 15, we have the same + 1d6 for solar weapon. That kinda sucks and is really not fun. One of the things that PFRPG improved over 3.X was to make most levels fun and unique. So yeah, filling these? Great! All for it!

This supplement operates under the central premise of making the solarian more powerful, so that’s something to bear in mind here.

As such, the supplement begins with abilities suggested to even the playing field a bit for the solarian – these include number-tweaks like expanded proficiencies (heavy armor, longarms, grenades – oddly all capitalized, as though they were feats; indeed, quite a few abilities are presented thus, deviating from formatting conventions), making Strength or Dexterity key ability modifier, use Charisma instead of Dexterity to determine AC, use Charisma instead of Constitution to determine Stamina gained, or using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity to calculate attack rolls with solar weapons or blasts.

Regarding flexibility, upgrades suggested are making them learn a harmonic revelation or both of a photon and graviton revelation. The suggestion to provide an additional manifestation or strengthened manifestation at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter (highly recommended – it kills the dead levels), or an ability that lets them retrain a stellar revelation when using sidereal influence. (Also an ability I’d recommend – makes the playing experience more versatile, and sidereal influence’s level and time-requirements prevent abuse) Good call here: The supplement doesn’t simply leave the GM alone with the new material, and advises caution regarding use of too many “substitute Charisma for X” type of abilities. The suggested tweaks, as presented, provide some customization options, but leaves the control firmly where it belongs - in the GM’s hands. While slightly more guidance would have been appreciated, but what we do get here is already something I very much appreciate.

Speaking of things I appreciate: Easily one of my least favorite things about SFRPG in the beginning was, that it simply didn’t offer that much regarding compelling lore pertaining to the respective classes; I still think that the Pact Worlds book could have done more there. Anyhow, the supplement provides quite a few cool lore justifications for the existence of solarians, which include cosmic radiation (cool for a somewhat comic-book-like feel), being an agent of fate…and one I’m particularly fond of, where notions of absolute moralities are dissolved. As someone who has always been vocal about hating alignment systems, particularly within the complex realities of more advanced civilizations, that one struck a chord with me. 6 of these complex explanations are provided, and I genuinely liked all of them.

The pdf then proceeds to provide the stellar beacon archetype, which grants alternate class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level: At 2nd level, we have a means to gain stellar mode – and if you already are a solarian, you gain 2 points of attunement per round, rather than 1. This is a potentially very strong change, as it decreases the speed to become fully attuned by 1 round, unlocking zenith revelations sooner. Considering that the payoff is a single stellar revelation, this is a very powerful option, particularly when combined with the basic notion of getting more flexible revelations, as suggested before. 6th, 12th and 18th level provide a stellar revelation – so no change for solarians? Well, not quite: If you are a solarian, you can choose zenith revelations at 12th and 18th level instead. At 9th level, we have the Inverted Being ability, which lets you choose one revelation of equal level and opposite attunement for each one you possess. By meditating 10 minutes and spending 1 Resolve Point (not capitalized properly), you can exchange any of these revelations for their opposite.

This archetype is interesting in a couple of ways: For one, it allows for valid dabbling in the solarian engine for non-solarians. For solarians, it provides pretty much a straight power upgrade, in that it allows for quicker zenith manifestation access and an increased emphasis of the duality-concept at 9th level. It also puts me as a reviewer in a very weird position: On one hand, it is, pretty much by design, a VERY strong option, and one you’d be a fool to pass over, if it is allowed in your game. As such, it would be easy to complain about it being overpowered in the context of the solarian class as presented….and indeed, the quicker access to the solarian’s “finishers” is something that requires careful observation, as ALL future zenith revelations or those from other sources are balanced against requiring the set-up time being required. Getting rid of it can become problematic rather fast.

On the other hand, this archetype’s intention is to let you get sooner to that “cool” stuff. The question on whether you’d consider this archetype broken or amazing is ultimately wholly contingent on whether you think that the solarian’s modes play as they should. Do you want the set-up period and play a grittier game? If so, then you should not allow this archetype – for your game, it might tip the balance in an unpleasant manner. You should also be very much careful with zenith revelations and how they operate when using it. If, however, your group is gunning for a higher-powered playing style, and if the set-up of zenith revelations struck you as bothersome, then this archetype will be a godsend, and operate consistently at its intended powerlevel. While zenith revelations still require some oversight, the archetype may well drastically increase your enjoyment of the solarian class in your game. So yeah, for certain games, this is awesome. I just wished that the book clearly spelled the intended design goals to allow GMs to make an informed choice there. An explanation there would have certainly made this more newbie-friendly.

The supplement then proceeds to present two new solar manifestations: Solar amplification increases the DC of both stellar and zenith revelations by 1, +1 at 9th and 18th level, and the ability also nets you ½ solarian level as a bonus to maneuvers executed with stellar revelations. RAW, zenith revelations are excluded from this bonus; not sure that this was intentional, but I assume it was. Solar form nets +1 to all saving throws, which increases to +2 at 10th level (providing a bit of alleviation for the common save-complaint), and nets you twice solarian temporary hit points, with fast healing equal to your solarian level. The latter aspect is highly ambiguous regarding its verbiage – does the fast healing apply universally, or just to the temporary hit points? This needs clarification. Much to my chagrin, the pdf also fails to specify whether and how these interact with the solarian class graft.

Unless I miscounted, we have 24 new stellar revelations. This book introduces a new category of those, so-called harmonic revelations, which count as neither photon, nor graviton, and are active in both attunements. While I get the design goal behind that, I also do think that these somewhat dilute the duality leitmotif of the solarian class on a rules level. I am not a fan of this.

The vast majority of new revelations are harmonic ones, so I’ll just explicitly call out those that aren’t. Among the 2nd level stellar revelations, we have the means to get an additional solar manifestation, which, well, is kinda understandable, but once more, is future-proofing-wise perhaps not the smartest choice, considering that the class ability provides a scaling, constant benefit for the class. Amplified attunement nets you an insight bonus to EAC and KAC while graviton-attuned, while photon-mode nets you a scaling bonus to movement speed while photon-attuned. Both grow in potency at 9th and 18th level. Attunement Pool changes the attunement engine in an interesting manner: It lets your attunement grow to 4 + Charisma (should be capitalized) modifier attunement; when you use a solarian ability that would render you unattuned, you instead reduce this pool by 3. I really love this one. It’s a great investment for epic battles and unlocks some neat combos. Minor nitpick, though: Ideally, the ability should specify that you still can only use abilities that’d cause you to become unattuned if you have at least the 3 attunement required. It is very obvious from context, though. There is also a revelation that makes your solar weapon optionally a 60-ft.-range blast, which can’t be modified by crystals.

There are 8 6th level revelations, the first of which nets you 1 attunement whenever you damage an enemy with an attack.

WTF???
Okay, so this completely delimits attunement. With AoE attacks of any kind, this’ll allow you to scale up to the maximum of even the expanded attunement scale very easily, very swiftly. Compare that broken piece of WTF-ery with +1d6 damage output increase for solar weapon or blast. Or the pretty nifty option to get a solar weapon for each hand, which also gets weapon crystal interaction right. A revelation that nets you plus Charisma modifier uses of limited use revelations, or additional means to target specific targets, excluding targets from AoE revelations – the majority of these options tends to fill a plausible and per se well-wrought idea. Not having sidereal influence end in combat is also an interesting take, and there are means to upgrade the solar manifestations. Higher level revelations include “spending 2 resolve points, you may cast Plane Shift” ([sic!] as an example of formatting hiccups), with the added benefit of working for space ships as well, increasing drift. The latter part here? That’s REALLY cool. Not so cool: SFRPG does not have “full-round actions”; one of 16th level harmonic revelations includes the option to spend 1 Resolve Point to maximize all damage a target takes (NO SAVE); for another point, you also apply critical effects automatically, and any hit is a critical hit. While this ability may only affect a single target once before you need a 10-minute Stamina-replenishing rest, remember that there’s a revelation that lets you affect a target + Charisma modifier times with this! Oh, and guess what? There is also one ability that renders the target utterly invulnerable until the end of your next round. It has the same caveat, but…again…can be prolonged with a revelation herein. No DR, no resistance – flat-out immortality! Fall into a black hole (a proper one), be subject to a god’s smite or a planet destroyer supergun. You can take it. Unscathed. Yes, it requires a full action (erroneously referred to as full-round action) and is high level, but seriously? When compared to the regular 16th-level revelations, these latter two provide ridiculous damage boosts or defensive boosts. And know what? Solarian is DPR-wise already pretty damn good. That wasn’t the main issue of the class.

The book also provides 3 capstone revelations (one for each mode) – 1/week rebirth, a devastating proper mini black hole, and a mini supernova (that actually deals proper damage). I liked all of these, its glitches regarding action names and formatting notwithstanding.

On the photon side, we have means to replenish charges, which *can* be problematic – if you’re playing a resource-heavy game, this eliminates any energy-shortage you can construct, provided the solarian has enough time on their hands. (It also would allow for evil empires to construct solarian batteries, etc.); for 10th level revelations, we have a nice Glow of Life for allies (with a limit) that I really loved, and a means to increase a ship’s speed – I LOVE this one and wished there had been more options here that focus on ship combat and general utility; as many solarian players will be able to attest, ship combat as a solarian can use a couple of unique tricks and meaningful things to do.

The graviton revelations include a massive 10-hex extension of an aura that tanks ship speed (awesome), and a boost for defy gravity or gravity boost. See, these provide breadth, and that’s something the solarian can really use!

The pdf also features 10 new zenith revelations, which includes moving struck targets around while graviton-attuned, Stamina replenishing while fully attuned (not a fan), or what about a light doppelgänger who can act as an alternate origin for your revelations and who can switch places with you? That is AWESOME and incredibly cool. Rapid manifestation is hard to stomach: While fully attuned to one thing, you decrease the action your revelation activation might take from “full-round action to a standard action”, standard action to move action, move action to swift action.” This doesn’t work with ones that let you execute attacks. Now, combine this passive ability with the ones for max damage or invulnerability. Or the others. Or what about the zenith revelation that all but eliminates the duality notion, which makes you no longer lose attunement in photon/graviton if you attune to the other, adding +1 attunement in both modes automatically at 17th level? These are presented right next to a zenith revelation that makes a creature striking you in melee take 1d6 fire damage per 2 solarian levels, Reflex save halves.

The supplement also provides a full page-table of new weapon crystals – I genuinely liked these. No problems there. Beyond that, the pdf provides weapon mods – essentially modifications for weapon crystals that make the weapon count as cold iron, adamantine, change damage types, etc. At item level 8, targeting EAC seems pretty brutal, particularly for just 2,100 credits…and the level 18 true strike infusion bypasses all hardness, damage reduction and energy resistances – that should be scaling, numerical values, not a flat-out “I ignore everything.”

The pdf concludes with 5 solarian creatures, which aren’t always perfect: The CR 13 hemeros aeon, the CR 2 reptoid, a CR 8 dwarf, the CR 18 void prophet, and the CR 11 corona dragon. The aeon has darkvision listed twice, and its resistances are both off by 3, though the latter is probably intended – resistance 13 as per aeon is less elegant than the value of 10 it has. Apart from minor hiccups like these, the statblocks tend to be usable, though.

Part II of my review can be found here.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

The 20th installment of the FREE Wayfinder fanzine (this time penned for SFRPG) clocks in at 80 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreon supporters.

The theme of this installment would be the diaspora, so let’s dive in! We’ll begin with taking a look at the “Weal or Woe”-sections, wherein one potentially allied NPC, and one adversary are presented. As usual, these come with boons and individual artworks, alongside full statblocks. The first of these is penned by Stewart Moyer and lavishly illustrated by Tanyaporn Sangsnit; the first of these pairs would be the CR 6 nuar soldier Coralhorn Isidore, while the first adversary would be Nerodia Haros, a CR 6 sarcesian who has a deal with none other than Charon – both characters are cool, though minor hiccups like incorrect Resolve values can be found here.

The second pair of NPCs, penned by Paul Chapman and illustrated by John Laffan and Adil Araf presents a CR 5 kasatha operative and an amazing-looking dwarf soldier hellknight – the artwork of this fellow is close to Warhammer 40K’s aesthetics, but still feels like its own thing. Nice indeed! Nicholas Hite provides a CR 3 uplifted bear mechanic and an adversarial uplifted bear mystic, both illustrated lavishly by Chris L. Kimball. Hilary Moon Murphy presents a CR 4 dwarf mechanic and a dwarf mindbreaker mystic – once more, interesting characters, though the overall comparison of the characters (for they really come off as proper characters) does show that the precision of the statblocks oscillates a bit between authors.

The zine also contains a variety of new themes: Scott Colin McDonald and Kyle T. Raes present the Itinerant (which come with their own lexicon of in-game terms – LOVE that piece of flavor!) and the station resident theme, the latter of which allows for improvisational repairs via the destruction of other technological objects, with price used for scaling benefits – clever. Chris Brandforth has 4 more for you: The voidwalker is a zero-g specialist; star-questers live among the dwarves and have taken on board their spirituality; anomalists are focused on, well, researching weird stuff, while desolationists are fascinated with wrecked planets. Per se solid, though two of these sharing electricity and fire resistance at 12th level can be construed to be slightly redundant. Speaking of blasted planets: Jonathan Hendricks and Steven Czerniak also provide 4 new themes, focusing in topic on people from lasted/hostile planets and environments – we have the chainbreaker, opposed to oppression, while gangbusters focus on busting gangs, eliminating criminal elements. Asteroid miners do what’s said on the tin, and I am particularly fond of the astral composer, hearing the melody of stars – as an aside, if you enjoy Aethera as much as I do, this one’d fit that setting perfectly. Just sayin’.

The magazine also contains new tools for classes – Eric Hansen has new envoy class options for us, with an option to apply expertise die to Piloting instead of Sense Motive, and 3 associated expertise talents for pilot envoys. Two feats, one for better ramming/running over creatures, and one helping with evading in vehicle chases. We have gnolls as a playable race (penned by Mikhail Rekhun), supported by 2 statblocks, though they are presented like Alien Archive races – you know, sans the excessive information, the notes of what other species think of you, etc. – and there’s an interesting angle that uses ghost sound and modifying it via feats etc. Soldiers wishing to focus on brawling can do so with a new fighting style supported by two gear boosts, written by Alexander J. Ogilvy – I enjoyed this one. Jonathan Vaughn and Kelly Youngblood provide a whole slew of uplifted dinosaurs as playable races – velociraptor, triceratops, ankylosaur and Pteranodon; the latter fails to specify the type of their fly speed, though from context, extraordinary is clearly intended. Sasha Laranoa Harving’s songbird protégé (lavishly illustrated by Beatrice Pelagatti) is pretty neat, an archetype focusing on fencing with tricks, skirmishing…or buff allies, gain blindsight, etc., for the archetype’s abilities are tied to ability scores chosen. A complex and interesting archetype that manages to meaningfully alter the playing experience. Nice.

Dejan Veskovic offers new spells – 3 themed around the lingering echoes of the cataclysm that wrecked the diaspora, and 3 focused on mining magic – leaving trails of dazing time or opening wormholes are certainly cool options, and suitably-placed at their respective spell levels.

As far as tech is concerned, we can find new systems for starships here, with automated excavation and an expansion bay for oversized weapon mounts is super interesting; need to test this one further, but so far, the limitations suggested have kept it n check and made it feasible. Two tier 3 ships complement Jay Boehm’s treatise here. Alexander J. Ogilvy and Brendan Whaley tackle diasporan specialty power armors, the RAID and the LASS, and armor upgrades for wings and pursuit wheels made me very happy. Why? Because that lets you make Code Geass Knightframes, and I’m a frickin’ Lelouch fanboy. No surprise there, right? ;P Anyhow, we also solid other augmentations here, with gyromag limbs, an arm that lets you add the Sunder special property, and there are eyes – these increase the first range increment of small arms and grenades, AND the range of close spells – which is OP, particularly of roughly 7K credits. John Laffan provides rules for maneuvering starships through asteroids (with atk/damage for them, two new stunts, and 4 new crew actions) – I really enjoyed this one, but think that this would actually warrant further expansion. Jeremy Corff offers acid and fire base burrowing charge grenades alongside plasma pickaxes, PCMs and atomic lances.

Jessica Catalan introduces us to the asteroid Whimsy and Roxie Sprocket’s spectacular starships, with a tier 1 shuttle, a tier 5 explorer and a tier 9 heavy freighter (the glamstar) included. Pithica provides a tier 5 thaumtech shadowrunner shuttle, with John Laffan providing 3 starships used by the blazedryer goblin tribe (tier ½, 4, 8); Garrett Guilotte has gravitational tools and an idea for a hyperspin hazard (which is presented as a pretty massive wall of text, making it a bit harder to parse than it should be); Joseph Blomquist’s Boomrock Run fiction + space hazard has the same formatting. And yes, I’m aware of this not being non-standard, but I can’t help but feel that the information could be relayed in a way that’s easier to parse. Dennis Muldoon’s article on low-tech jury-rigged hazards is focused on the character level instead of potentially transcending it, and with its decoy keypads, sealed portals and quick releases certainly makes for a welcome addition.
As far as GM-centric material is concerned, there is a lot of flavor to be found here: Daniel Angelo Monaco introduces us to The Res, the resident habitat ring of the Songbird Station, and also has an article herein introducing us to a smattering of minor factions. Pithica42’s diasporan school bus addresses one of the mundane aspects of life that I personally need to consider a scific/space opera setting plausible – a freighter repurposed as an educational institute. Really cool! Maarten Mullens jellyfish shaped business station (illustrated rather well by Michael Tumey). Kim Frandsen has a brief introduction to the Calisco space station, and Mikhail Rekun introduces us to the dreaded crackmarrow gnolls. 4 side-trek seeds (written by Nathan Ross, Steven Czerniak, Alex Chilver and Tineke Bolleman) complement this section. Of course, there also is fiction herein: Alison Cybe, Brad Fiske, Maarten Mullens and Jay Boehm provide brief pieces.

But that’s not all. Remember the dwarf mechanic and pirate mindbreaker mystic by Hilary Moon Murphy I mentioned? Well, they complement a brief adventure for 4-6 level 4 characters, with the fully mapped (Michael Tumey’s handiwork) Wandering Water Bear starship, read-aloud text, etc. – the module is surprisingly roleplaying focused, which is a GOOD THING as far as I’m concerned – it pretty much kicks off with the need to get the ship’s crew to quit. Cool angle! Of course, there also is some combat to be had, but yeah – considering the limited space available, this does a good job!

The final section of the pdf is devoted to the Alien Archive section – I.e. new critters galore. Bran Hagger, Michael Garrett, Mischa Catalan, Douglas Edwards, Adam Kessler, E.S. Willoghby, Jaster Catalan, Brad Fiske, Dave Breitmaier, Beth Breitmaier, and Jeremy Corff are credited as authors. From playful asteroid gardening fey (whose garden can eat you…) and starship-sized gravwhales to energy wisp swarms, we have playful critters here, yes. But we also get some creepy undead, weirdo aliens, and even an INCREDIBLY cute rabbit-tribble. Sure. Trenabits can fire ice and stuff…but I WANT ONE. NOW. Not sure which artist drew this critter, but…respect. It’s awesome and just the perfect blend of cute and WEIRD. Love it.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules language level; layout adheres toa really nice two-column full-color standard, and the pdf is chockfull with original artworks, which range in style and quality from Paizo-levels to somewhat charming hand-drawn pieces evoking a sense of an old-school zine. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for our convenience. Cartography, where present, is full color and neat, but unfortunately, we don’t get player-friendly one-page versions that’d be easy to use in Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, etc.

A whole bunch of authors have provided their talents to this issue:
Adil Arif, Joseph Blomquist, Jay Boehm, Tineke Bolleman, Beth Breitmaier, Dave Breitmaier, Jaster Catalan, Jessica Catalan, Mischa Catalan, Alex Chilver, Jeremy Corff, Alison Cybe, Steven Czerniak, Douglas Edwards, Brad Fiske, Kim Frandsen, Michael Garrett, John Godek III, Garrett Guillotte, Bran Hagger, Chris Handforth, Eric Hansen, Sasha Laranoa Harving, Jonathan Hendricks, Nicholas Hite, Adam Kessler, John Laffan, Scott Colin McDonald, Daniel Angelo Monaco, Stewart Moyer, Dennis Muldoon, Maarten Mullens, Hilary Moon Murphy, Alexander J. Ogilvy, Pithica42, Kyle T. Raes, Mikhail Rekun, Nathan Ross, Jonathan Vaughn, Dejan Veskovic, E.S. Willoughby, Brendan Whaley, Kelly Youngblood.

A huge amount of artists have drawn art for it:
James Anderson, Paul Chapman, Snow Conrad, Jeremy Corff, Liz Courts, Andrew DeFelice, Joseph Fox, Bob Greyvenstein, Chris L. Kimball, Clay Lewis, Michael McNeill, Dionisis Milonas, Alex Moore, Alberto Ortiz Leon, Beatrice Pelagatti, Jessica Redekop, Tanyaporn Sangsnit, Michael Tumey, Todd Westcot, Bailey Wolfe, Deran Wright, Rhys Yorke.

Ladies, gentlemen, non-binary persons, thank you – I still can’t believe that Wayfinder is actually FREE. I mean, you get a high-quality, full-color ‘zine full of interesting odds and ends…for free. This oozes passion, and Tim Nightengale, with editors Kalyna Conrad, Eric Hindley, Kendra Leigh Speedling, Megan Tenbarge, Scott D. Young and Mike Welham, and layout artist Dain Nielsen, all deserve our thanks.

To get this straight: If this was a commercial product, would I recommend it? Yes, with the price and supplemental features determining the final rating in the upper echelons I’d settle on. It’s not perfect, but considering that this is FREE and features so many cool concepts? Heck yes, get it asap!

You have nothing to lose from downloading this, and as such, I remain with a heartfelt recommendation of 5 stars + seal of approval. This is worth getting, reading, commenting and sharing.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This eventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, in case you’re new to these: “Eventures” are essentially mini-adventures that focus on events, as opposed to a plot, a confrontation, or combat; this makes them eminently useful as pre-prepared set-pieces that you can enter into the game.

And frankly, a circus is a good call there. I mean, I can easily list 10+ modules that feature a circus; all of them have in common that something goes horribly wrong/sinister. And I get why. However, on a meta-level, this also means that the party of players will be on edge as soon as the word “circus” falls anywhere close to the in-game world.

And this is where this supplement comes in – in it, we learn about the “White Tiger’s Crew”, and their circus; general hooks are provided to get the party to visit the circus, and a 12-entry whispers and rumors table adds further hooks to the fray. If all of that doesn’t suffice, the supplement also has a 20-entry minor events table.

The crew, by the way, is not without their internal struggles and shades of grey decisions to be made when interacting with the party, but the supplement does not run the usual “evil/deadly nightmare circus” shtick. An important note: Whether the circus becomes fully evil, redeemed, or remains in an equilibrium very much might be up to the party. Particularly the tastefully touched subject of slavery is interesting in the context of this circus.

The circus comes with an artwork/handout that depicts a flyer inviting people to the circus, and also features a really nice b/w-cartography by Tommi Salama of the circus grounds and the ship they use to travel. The map sports 6 keyed encounters. The respective acts are described, including an orc and goblin comedic act, blind jugglers, fortune tellers, clowns, a lion tamer, and yes, a freak show. The food cart lists a surprising amount of good alongside prices that are affordable for non-adventurers, and the eventure also suggests a variety of activities.

Which brings me to one point of serious criticism for this supplement: There are no rules provided for any of them, even though PFRPG very much tends to solve the like with…you know…rules.

The supplement concludes with a variety of adventure hooks that go beyond the actual visit to the circus.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules language level, the book omits several aspects that would be handled via rules in PFRPG. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and features neat b/w-artworks, a cool handout, and neat b/w-cartography. I am given to understand that you get high-res unlabeled maps via Raging Swan Press’ patreon, but I still consider the lack of player-friendly versions here a downside, though not necessarily a crucial one in this instance. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and in two iterations – one optimized for screen use, and one optimized for the printer.
Jeff Gomez’ trip to the circus is a delightful change of pace for the trope. The circus feels plausible and organic, and taking a break from the “circus nightmare/massacre”-trope is indeed appreciated. There is, formally, nothing to complain about the supplement in that regard.

As far as the PFRPG-components are concerned, it is severely lacking in actual crunch, though – and in this instance, the very activities that are supposed to, you know, entertain characters and players alike, don’t have any mechanical chassis to make them work. And yes, pretty much every evil circus module has some mechanics, so giving an atk-value for a dart throwing champion, an AC, some rules for competitions etc. wouldn’t have blown up the word-count beyond the scope.

This remains the big downside of this supplement, and the only reason why I can’t rate this version higher than 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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