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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This supplement clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with 3 pages of what amounts to a xenobiologis’s handbook, written in character, as the narrator explores the xenobiome of UX-5396 – canopies of laced leaves, microtrees, pink carpets of mucilage – I was positively surprised to be transported into a strange world here, and as soon as we learn about the rainbow lake, a vast plane of lichen atop a sulfur lake’s crust, I was fully engrossed. As a minor drawback, the boots noted for safe traversal don’t get proper stats.

Dormant and subsisting primarily on lionfrogs and arcobeasts, the pdf contains new hazards – anaphylactic spores (CR 6) and paralytic vines (CR 12), and the means to create botanical stalkers, via a CR +3 subtype graft that is added to the plant type graft, all of which are solid, if not too outré. While subtype grafts usually don’t increase CR, here, the template style nature certainly justifies doing so – though adhering to the template graft standards in presentation might have been prudent, for as written, this does generate some work.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf presents a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity. There are a few glitch bookmarks here, but they don’t impede functionality.

Jeff Collins’ humble little exploration of a strange planet caught me by surprise – I did not expect to like it this much. The flavor really sells what would otherwise just be a few mechanical hazard tidbits. Considering the low price, I’ll rate up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, though it should be noted that, if you’re not interested in flavor, you may want to round down instead, as there isn’t that much going on rules-wise.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This mythic plug-in clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content – though, as always, it should be noted that there is quite a lot of content cramped inside of this pdf.

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

So, what is this? It is, in short, a book that provides the means for GMs to make mythic rules more than just a template to be added on top of characters and monsters; it is about mythic forces authoring the destiny of narratives; not being a tool of it. The idea is that the world is mutable and shaped by the deeds of mythic entities – resulting in the creation of marvels. If you remember, for example the difference of Witcher 3’s depiction of Toussaint in “Blood and Wine” and its radically different palette, or when thinking about Camelot, Eldorado, Xanadu (the inspiration of Xin-Shalast), etc., one can see how potent beings may alter the fabric of the world. The book supplements this concept with rules for incidental marvels, accompanying e.g. maximum damage rolls, crucial crits etc. – the hero falls, and blood rains; the crows all caw, etc. – the cosmetic concept of incidental marvels need not have rules repercussions.

Mythic trials, on the other hand, may create marvels beyond the capabilities of characters of the respective mythic tier.

Now, the pdf provides a smattering of concisely codified effects – like the alteration of terrain /difficult terrain that may knock you prone as earth quakes, withers or plan-like blooms, etc.) or areas of spellblight. At mid-to high-tiers, artifacts may be created, undead or haunts may be generated, curses unleashed (massive 2-page table with item categories by tier and suggested cursed items provided!), and if you’re playing with Ultimate Campaign’s fame-mechanics, there’s a tie-in-here as well. The awesome concept of fey impulses (see Forest Kingdom Compendium) may also be tied in this way, and occult adventures ley lines or locus spirits may be included. Structures may be ruined. Rumormongering may have the rumor take on a life of its own (extra kudos if you use this for an Adahn-situation…and kudos if you got this by now super-dated reference… ;P) and settlement qualities may be gained or lost.

The pdf also provides a bit of guidance about reversing marvels, and nets you a great tier-by-tier list of trial marvels and suggested effects, allowing you to judge their impact and presenting thus a great means to think about them in a streamlined manner, as opposed to just going by gut-feeling: A 10th tier character’s marvel may be a subcontinental-scale earthquake, while a 2nd tier’s marvel may awaken a dead creature as an undead, for example. Incidental marvels also get such a tier-by-tier breakdown that helps you think of them in a meaningful way. In case you need some inspiration for mythic trials, there are plenty of concepts provided there as well.

Beyond those, there also are quite a bunch of path abilities provided: We get 5 universal path abilities: Perhaps your presence unsettles the spirits, allowing you to cast mage hand, ghost sound, unseen servant (latter not italicized properly) at will; your healing can make plant-life bloom when you also spend mythic power; you can quickly sculpt as per expeditious excavation (at higher tiers stone shape, wall of stone), and what about sweeping strikes that clear difficult terrain or using your breath for mythic gust of wind or wind wall? I love these! They are not just numbers and boosts, they are the stuff of legends. 3 3rd tier universal path abilities allow for speed-increase, burrowing or ex nihilo creation, and the 3 6th tier abilities let you use earthquake or mythic move earth, with higher tiers allowing for nasty curses from Horror Adventures (one of those isn’t properly italicized). Move mountain allows you to move 30-foot cubes of earth in a single round, and wind rider lets you control the winds and ride whirlwinds!! Frickin’ awesome! This is what mythic gameplay should be about!

Conclusion:
Editing is exceedingly precise on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting missed a few italicizations, but otherwise remains precise. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks, though fans of Legendary Games will be familiar with them. The pdf comes with a single bookmark for the ToC; while this is a short book, more would have been nice.

David N. Ross’ mythic marvels are AWESOME. I love how they help the GM think of mythic might as more than just an escalation of numbers. They help you make the mythic powers feel more like the powers of legend, wielded by truly legendary heroes and villains. Its main draw is how it helps you think of mythic power as something more – and in my book, as something more, something that really helps mythic characters feel like more than just super-powered versions of regular heroes. As such, this is a radiant success, and I’d warmly recommend this to just about any GM and group using mythic adventures – I’d consider this to be an EZG-essential book for mythic adventures, in fact. However, the few hiccups in formatting prevent me from rating this the full 5 stars, making my final verdict 4.5 stars + seal of approval, rounded up.
(As an aside: This material is included in the massive Mythic Character Codex as well – so f you’re looking for the big collection of mythic material, get that tome instead!)

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This installment of the Ship-supplements for the intriguing Galaxy Pirates-line clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

The heavy freighter of the katar is a Large freighter that clocks in as a tier 5 ship; the freighter uses its expansion bays for 8 cargo holds, and crew can’t expect luxury – the quarters are just common. Defense-wise, we get medium-range sensors, and the ship comes with both mk 4 armor and defenses. It also has 50 shields, focused on forward and aft, though it should be noted that they are erroneously called “basic” here, when 50 is the cusp of “light” shields.

The freighter is powered by an Arcus Ultra, and is decently-armed for a freighter – heavy laser cannons on forward, port and starboard sides. On the aft, we have a light torpedo launcher. With a solid pilot, the ship has a decent AC and TL 18, and, as has become the tradition with these supplements, comes with a brief table of Computers (missing the “S”) skill checks that you can make to know information about the freighter in-game.

As has become the tradition with the series, we get an already fully filled out ship-sheet for the freighter, paper-minis and a gorgeous full-page version of the artwork. Nice: We get a full and proper map of the ship, with the torpedo bay situated where it should be; as a nice touch of unifying cultural identity, the freighter, in spite of its focus on functionality, does have one piece of luxury: The little katar garden that all their vessels share. It’s a small touch, but I like it.

Build integrity-wise, there is nothing to complain about here. I reverse-engineered the ship, and it checks out.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork presented is awesome. I love the look of the freighter. The full-color map that notes access ladders, cargo, quarters, etc. is detailed and amazing as well. The addition of paper minis and ship-sheet add further convenience here. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver a solid, nice freighter here – utilitarian, yet with its own identity. All in all, a nice one, definitely worth getting; my final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This installment of the Places of Power-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!

The location known as “Dead Man’s Run” is something refreshingly different, as far as I’m concerned – this stretch of land is situated on the border between two kingdoms; per default, that would be an elven kingdom and a human one, but it’d be rather easy to change the kingdoms to different races, should your game require that. From initial hostilities and border skirmishes, a truce sprang – one that ultimately saw two villages spring up. As you could glean from the name, this is not where the story ends. A single night of chaos, ten years ago, saw the villages wiped out in a freak flashflood and strange, ostensibly magic weather-phenomena. The disaster saw most survivors flee, though some did remain – today, Dead Man’s Run has a population of 11 folks, 6 of whom get the classic Raging Swan Press NPC treatment: This means we get brief descriptions, notes on background, mannerisms, personality, etc., but no statblocks.

As a quasi village-remnant/almost ghost town, this place does come with a marketplace section – after all, the warfare of the past has left plenty of intriguing items running around for the scavenging. Going even beyond that, the respective keyed locations do feature individual sections of items for sale, going one step beyond in that regard – nice! Indeed, the respective keyed locations do come with a surprising and commendable amount of adventure hooks, often featuring more than one. The ferry even features a localized 6-entry events table.

As always, the pdf does come with notes that will help you provide information for PCs that do their proper legwork. The pdf does feature notes on the appearances and dressing habits of the locals, as well as 6 sample whispers and rumors.

The once gentle Brimbrook, turned into a massive river, nowadays features a proper ferry operated by a former farmer turned ferryman; an abandoned fort, its dungeons awaiting expeditions by stalwart adventurers. Little trade or industry takes place here, and there may not be much law enforcement, but in the absence of many folks, there usually also isn’t that much need for it. Really cool: The place has weird customs that reflect the story of this place and sports an interesting mythological resonance. A 20-entry strong table of dressing-entries and events allows you to further emphasize the unique nature of this storied region, and the pdf does provide further information regarding the landscape in the vicinity of this place.

It should also be noted that this location, beyond the obvious war/fallen-theme, also has a fey-angle, one that works rather perfectly in conjunctions with Kobold Press’ classic “Wrath of the River King.” Just saying!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and rules-language. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artwork and cartography provided are really nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is a comfort-plus, and yes, the supplement comes in two versions, with one of them optimized for screen use, and one intended to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels is at this point a veteran of these supplements, and it shows – this is a great, unpretentious supplement that allows you to develop the angles and local population in a variety of different, intriguing ways, ranging from the fantastic to the down-to-earth. All in all, this is a well-wrought, fun supplement, worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This super-sized installment of the Pop Culture Catalog-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

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

Okay, as always, we begin the supplement with a recap of how the smooth and easily integrated fandom perk-rules work, which have been the rather cool mechanical skeleton underlying these supplements. This supplement contains 10 different vice dens, all of which provide their own fandom perks; while nominally located within Everyman Gaming’s and Rogue Genius Games’ shared Xa-Osoro setting as a backdrop, implementation into other settings is rather painless. (As an aside: “Hyperspace Station” is shorthand for the IP-.less reference to Absalom Station – once you know that, integration of the star system becomes even easier.)

Vice dens, obviously, sometimes deal with topics that folks consider to be taboo at the table; while I, personally, do NOT have such lines, I know plenty of folks that are traumatized by their experiences to the point that certain topics seriously impede their fun; as such, this book proposes a discussion and an easy classification: “Lines” are lines that should not be crossed; “veils” are when you fade to black. It is really nice to see these topics acknowledged and how maturely they’re handled here – they neither champion undue censoring, nor present an insensitive trampling of individual sensibilities, providing a compassionate and feasible model to deal with topics that some may consider to be taboo. This pertains primarily how things are handled at the table, mind you – the content herein is VERY tame as far as I’m concerned; at the most conservative, I’d consider this to be PG-13; probably even below that.

Anyhow, we start with the Busty Dragon Inn – and yes, this *is* a genius reference to the classic inn in Sandpoint – the formian construction crew that moved it to space misread an “r” for a b” – which gives the den its unique and hilarious icon – yep, as has become the tradition with Pop Culture Catalog-installments, each vice-den gets its own logo! Doubling as a mordello and tavern, it nonetheless manages to keep it classy and both aspects separate, yet entwined – it sounds like a rather wholesome example of the establishment type, as far as I’m concerned. The fandom perk represents that as well, netting Diplomacy as a class skill, or a +1 bonus to it if you already have it. And no, that “m” is NOT a typo – it is part of the vice-den terminology established herein, which btw. also explains the difference of e.g. an adult theater from a strip club. And before you ask: Yes, these topics are handled in a PG 13-friendly and tasteful manner.

Digiyu would be an underground adult entertainment club that offers a cyberverse server set apart from the larger servers; inaccessible to government networks, it allows for the fulfillment of fantasies in a virtual space, be they forbidden or simply outré. The illegal nature of this alternate cybervserse and the decadence of experiences offered provides a +2 insight bonus to Will saves vs. Charm effects, +2 to opposed Sense Motive and +2 to the DC of social skill checks made against you as a fandom perk. ISAAC (Imperium Substance And Abuse Center) is something I have never seen before in a RPG-supplement – it seriously warmed my heart. It’s a safe space for drug users, following a government-approved plan after realizing that criminalizing substance-abuse actually enhanced the problem. These institutions dramatically reduced the rate of overdose deaths and crimes, and the perk nets a +2 enhancement bonus to resist drug and addiction effects, which increases to +4 in the center. I love this. It genuinely touched me and made me happy to see it here.

The Howling Esir is an ultranought star citadel run by the genderfluid gnoll High Prajah Jexijar Homerender, and is basically the opposite of wholesome – it is a massive, nasty slaver’s operation, and “fandom” here denotes more having survived interacting with these folk; as such, it decreases the DC to recall information on related topics by 5 and nets +2 to the DC of Charisma or skill checks that gnolls or slavers attempt against you. Now, the above touched on slavery – later in the pdf, when all vices are discussed in detail, some very clear guidelines are provided – slaves are not for PCs, slavery is always evil, etc. – I like that the pdf takes a moral stand here.

The company Love Solutions brew stimulants; but they have another place, one with pretty nasty NDAs: This not-really-legal place would be Love Rock, and here, more potent aphrodisiacs (and chemical conditioning) may be found; as a fandom perk, we get +1 to Charisma-based checks and skill checks, which increases to +2 when used in checks to increase Relationship Scores (as per Advanced Skill Guide). Phantom’s Fair is a cool idea that oozes SFRPG’s science-fantasy flair: It is basically a demiplane housing a black market, with the planar anchor easily moved – and those entering it must be unconscious. This blends slightly macabre aesthetics (patrons e.g. may be found in the tavern known as “Open Grave”) with a touch of Pratchett’s moving shops. Fans reduce the Culture DC regarding the underworld by 5, and there is a chance that you can score a discount – but an equal chance that the King of Phantoms and associated request a favor of you that you should not refuse. It never involves harming yourself or friends and allies, but refusal will result in serious ostracizing – when using the great Advanced Skill Guide rules, a whopping 50 Infamy!

Second Skin, developed by the genderfluid elf Parquon Delveair, is truly interesting – it is basically a means to experience sensory deprivation in a whole-body latex bubble that also can be adjusted to stimulate the user as desired, coupling relaxing, massage, pleasure and a deceleration from the rigors of the Nova Age. The breathing exercises enforced by the experience nets fans a +1 enhancement bonus to Will-saves vs. emotion effects. If all of that doesn’t sound to compelling, and you derive pleasure from cold steel and carbon in your appendages, whatever they may be, then you may want to check out Rex’s Reliable Arms – an institutionalized weapons dealer, Rex is the kingpin of weapon dealers, and, in a twist I did not expect, is REALLY law-abiding! The line of the kobold suffering from anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and ADHD also made me interested here – each of them on its own could easily spark adventures. Rex may be on medication for them, but yeah. Rex’s frantic ramblings decrease the Culture check to recall information on weapons by 5, and the fandom also nets you a +1 to skill checks made to repair weapons. Rex is a cool character – I’d actually love to see the fellow developed further!

The Wobbly Orbit is led by two kasatha, and represents an institutionalized cantina. The two managers Tycha and Zimo seem to be rather snarky, and the fandom perk allows you to recall knowledge untrained, and 1/day spend 1 Resolve when attempting to recall knowledge untrained to get a +5 bonus on the check. Finally, there would be The Ziggurat, operated by kitsune billionaire Tashinado Tymira. The clan once ostensibly set fire to the equivalent of the library of Alexandria – but, well, they didn’t. Instead, the underground library now may hold the largest stash of pre Nova Age lore anywhere. The fandom nets you 1/day, subject to GM approval, a +1d10 bonus to skill checks deemed rare or obscure, provided you pay 1 Resolve Point.

This is not, however, where this massive installment of the series ends – instead, we get a massive chapter on drugs, including rules on slipping them in a creature’s food and noticing. The format presented here is interesting, as it presents a more varied approach to drugs than the SFRPG core rules do – all drugs are assumed to be available at all item levels, with higher level versions being assumed to be more concentrated or magically/technologically-enhanced. A drug has a base price, and a price modifier, which is applied to the drug when purchasing it illegally. Each drug has a Type that notes, well, the type of the drug, as well as means of ingestion. A massive table lists the Drug save DCs by item level, and this DC is also used to calculate the addiction disease save DC to which you’re exposed when consuming the drug; this means that high-level characters don’t become flat-out immune to drug addiction from certain drugs, which is an excellent rules operation I wholeheartedly support. Tracks and effects are noted, and the pdf contains 18 different sample drugs that include twists on the core rules-drugs like dreamshiver, but extends beyond that.

Brawn, for example, enhances Strength for the purposes of bulk limit and nets a scaling bonus to the limit increase and the boost to Athletics and Acrobatics, depending on item level. On the fantastic side, e.g. corpseflower pollen auto-stabilizes for some hours sans Resolve expenditure, and grants a bonus to saves vs. death effects. Hemihigh, which I previously mentioned in my review of the awesome Blood Madness Corruption, is refined from the condensed material of blood space – it can expose you to the corruption, but it also nets a boost to Intimidate and to damage rolls with melee and thrown weapons, which is pretty brutal and tempting…on the more mundane side, rules for marijuana, opiates and nicotine are provided as well. What about a Fallout-style brew that makes you bioluminescent. The hallucinogenic ninetailed fox brew, a draught made from akata resin that enhances your ability to hold your breath, rapture dust and pesh would be further examples. This chapter is inspired, and the scaling drug-rules should genuinely be core in my humble opinion – fyi: The table lists three different price-categories per item level, allowing you to simulate local prohibitions and scarcity.

But, well beyond that, we haven’t covered the basics, right? Well, guess what: The pdf does no shy from talking, in a tasteful and non-explicit manner, about sex toys, sex work, and the differences of institutional and underground businesses, with licenses in 6 steps correlated to minimum level and item level limits. As an aside: It was thoroughly awesome to read a vision of the future where sex work is treated with an enlightened perspective, where securities are provided and regulations don’t necessarily ostracize them. Two big thumbs up! (And if you want, you can still have the seedy, nasty underbelly cyber-noir stories via underground businesses; funny aside: This’d make e.g. Judge Dredd-like characters actually allies of the institutional, legal workers…this made me smile.) After this, we discuss the different types of drugs, from depressants to the psychedelic effects-producing enactogens to hallucinogenics, stimulants, etc. Being also indebted to the whole fantasy-angle, literature is included here in its own section, and as someone who can attest to the rapture of a good book, well, I liked that.

Speaking of which: Exposing minors to vices is a crime. Oh, and there is another thing I really loved here: In the section that discusses weaponry, guess what? There are rules here to make space more believable: Weapon registration (including rules for looking up registered weapons) and licenses; the pdf also suggests that some place may require the merciful fusion to be affixed to weapons, which makes sense. In space, blowing a hole in the station could wreck it, and if everyone’s armed to the teeth, it’s just a matter of time before things escalate, so having some checks and balances here (and yes, you can ignore them…but why? They may for some nice investigation avenues…) enhances my sense of plausibility. And if you’re really pro-guns, setting them to stun in the make-believe RPG, so to speak, shouldn’t irk you, right?

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting re top-notch on a rules-language level, and just as precise on a formal one – apart from one instance of “craft” instead of “crave” and very few such minor blunders, I noticed nothing to complain about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the full-color artworks within drawn by Jacob Blackmon generate a unified aesthetic. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas has surpassed himself here; the Pop Culture Catalog-series is a great breath of fresh air, because it is rather light-hearted, yet inspiring. Here, I feared this’d go into dark places, and while it tangentially does, it creates a vision we see all too rarely in science-fiction: That of a future that’d be awesome to live in. There are those that say that the measure of a society lies within how it handles its misfits, its criminals, its vices – and in the Xa-Osoro system, this would indeed mean that the place is enlightened in the best of ways; this feels a bit like Star Trek, a bit like Firefly – not like a grim noir trip down Altered Carbon territory (though it does allow for that as well). The writing here oozes a warm-hearted, compassionate kindness that was really amazing to see.

You don’t care about the fluffy feels? All right, this is still awesome for you: The differentiated drug-engine makes them viable and tempting, dangerous options throughout the adventurer’s careers and vastly enhances the appeal of this often underdeveloped aspect of the mythologies of our games. They are, in fact, so good that I want more, and that this gets my EZG-Essentials tag for SFRPG. This is a must-own addition for the game, and I seriously hope Paizo’s taking a cue here. Beyond that, the inspiring ideas and compelling vistas presented, all the adventuring potential in these pages, leave me with practically no choice – not only is this the so far best installment in the series, it gets 5 stars + seal of approval and also is a candidate for my Top ten of 2019. Get it. Seriously. As an aside: Even if you play another scifi RPG, the wealth of ideas herein may warrant getting this all on its own…just sayin’…

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This installment of the Places of Power-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!

So, Dreamden is a rustic resort situated at the border of a vast desert; usually sporting a population that slightly exceeds the 100, but subject to obvious fluctuations, it is an opportunity for the rich and decadent to get away from the hustle and bustle of city-life. PCs doing their legwork, as always, can very much unearth some intriguing tidbits about the place – for example, that a gigantic demon was slain in the vicinity, and that the patrons that stay there tend t lose their wits.

This isn’t particularly surprising, considering that this place offers quite an assortment of properly statted magical drugs: Three sample drugs are provided, including descriptions, prices, etc., with the alchemical material narcotic sand as a helpful means of offsetting the cost when manufacturing drugs. Pretty big plus: These drugs have been properly stated and are genuinely potentially useful and interesting regarding their effects. Only in certain situations, sure, but I *can* potentially see PCs using these, particularly in low/rare magic games.

As a kind of resort, this place of power does differentiate between the different types of folk that can be found here, roughly grouped in patrons, servants and staff, with notes on appearance, dressing habits and nomenclature provided. The supplement also provides an array of 6 whispers and rumors. The ramshackle-looking, exotic tent/den-place is lavishly mapped by William McAusland and Maciej Zagorski of the Forge Studios, with a piece of neat b/w-artwork representing the place in addition to the map provided – rather cool, as this allows the GM to provide a view of the place as a handout of sorts to the players.

The Dreamer, mastermind of Dreamden, basically sells enlightenment and drugs as a kind of cult using classic tactics – and indeed, if you’ve seen a documentary on some of those creepy cults for the rich and famous, disguised as coaching/life advice, then you’ll clearly get this place, particularly if you add some serious debauchery beneath the veneer of enlightenment. As such, there isn’t much trade and industry going on, and the place has very few rules beyond the utopian vision of the Dreamer and the associated groupthink-indoctrination. Life is regulated, but on a mandatory basis, and in case you require some additional help bringing the place to life, you can rely on the 20-entry strong dressing/event table.

The supplement also contains notes n the surrounding vicinity, with a d6 event table allowing you to depict the harsh environment. There are 5 sample NPCs included in the supplement, who, as has become tradition with the series, come with brief notes on alignment, race and class, as well as mannerisms, personality and background notes. Nice: One of the NPCs is basically a quest-hook on her own, but her write-up once erroneously refers to her by the wrong pseudonym, which can be slightly confusing. The place of power contains multiple drug dens of different types, and the campus includes an impressive statue, the Hand of God, from which pleasant odors and narcotic substances seep up. And yes, there is more to this place than meets the eye, but I am not going to spoil that in this review.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level, very good on a formal level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artwork and cartography provided are really nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is a comfort-plus, and yes, the supplement comes in two versions, with one of them optimized for screen use, and one intended to be printed out.

Jeff Gomez’ Dreamden is a nice and intriguing Place of Power; while it is a bit more obvious than I think it should be regarding its secrets (it’d be more interesting in my book to make things less clear-cut), the pdf is still very much worth checking out. All in all, a neat place, and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, though it should be noted that we get quite a lot of text per page.

This review was, funnily enough, requested by a patreon supporter to be moved up in my reviewing queue – and it was the only mythic book that had, prior to that, not (yet) been requested, so this, in a way, makes the completionist in me grin.

Now, as always in these books, we begin with supplemental content – and this time around, the subject matter would be “Naked Courage”, referring to the tendency of some Celtic cultures fighting without armor. In Pathfinder, savage barbarian, swashbuckler or the like can be used to represent this concept, sure. This pdf adds the blue-painted warrior fighter archetype to the fray of such options. These valiant braves lose proficiency with armor, but apply blue-painted symbols to their bodies in a process that takes 1 hour of preparation as well as 1 sp per class level in a process that takes an hour. These symbols grant an AC bonus equal to ½ class level (minimum +1). Bravery is modified to net +4 to Will saves against fear, increasing by +2 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd, and 14th level makes that immunity to fear. Without freshly painted symbols, this reverts to base bravery benefits. Instead or armor training, third level nets the option to choose 1 spell-like ability from a list, and 7th, 11th and 15th level unlock their own lists of SPs and increase the number of SPs from previous lists, basically emulating a spell-list of sorts. The engine does allow for the slotting of lower level SPs in higher level slots, uses Constitution as governing ability score to determine bonus SPs, and the SPs only apply to the character. Instead of gaining an SP, the blue-painted warrior can grant herself an enhancement bonus to AC or a combination of such a bonus and armor special qualities, with a cap of only one SP until 11th level. At 19th level, armor mastery is replaced with shrug it off, a 75% chance to negate critical hits and precision damage based on the symbols – a failure to refresh them sees them slowly degrade down the fortification special ability tree.

The archetype comes with explicit mythic class feature tricks, which allow them to expend mythic power to retain symbol freshness, adding tier to armor bonus and immunity vs. non-mythic fear-sources, as well as the option of granting nearby allies half the bravery bonus. The SP-based engine-component may be tweaked to provide access to the mythic iteration, and allows for spontaneous swapping of choices made. The mythic version can also apply the benefits of these SPs to allies, and the mythic version of the mighty shrug it off allows for automatic crit and precision damage negation from non-mythic sources. It also nets allies an atk and damage boost when you negate a crit. On the nitpicky side, I noticed missing italicizations here. This guy is decent, but not exactly brilliant as far as I’m concerned.

All righty, but this fellow was not what we’re here for, right? Let’s check out the creatures! At the lowest rung of the CR-spectrum, we have nixies, which clock in at CR 1/MR 1. The mythic upgrade has two really nice new abilities. Coat of Mist blurs the nixie while near a body of water, and mythic power expenditure may upgrade this to displacement. Additionally, they get fisher’s touch, which allows for the use of a touch to baleful polymorph (italics missing) touched targets briefly, with non-mythic and charmed targets being more susceptible. Nice upgrade! Also at this CR/MR, we get a mythic upgrade of the alpluachra, who is a bit faster in water and injects its numbing slime with bite attacks as well. Additionally, they may expend a use of mythic power as an immediate action to avoid ingesting harmful alchemical substances, toxins, etc. and withstand the consumption of salt or salt water. Nice evolution of the concept.

At one CR more, CR 2/MR 1, the fuath gremlin, whose attacks now actually can hurt (thank the deities…) and whose mere presence makes waters nearby choppy, increasing the Swim DCs nearby, and they may 1/day warp wood at CL 8th, making them rather dangerous for those braving their waters. Increasing CR once more by +1, we have two CR 3/ MR 1 critters within, with the first being the water leaper receives a stunning shriek and the option to use mythic power to add a whopping +20 to Acrobatics made to leap for 1d6 rounds. The second creature at this CR/MR-array would be the pooka, who is improved to hearken closer to its mythological roots: They get selective invisibility and may execute at-range dirty tricks governed by Charisma, with the option to expend mythic power to retain their invisibility. The final low CR/MR-creature clocks in at CR 4/MR 1, the mythic spring-heeled jack, who may use their ragged capes to glide, Batman-style, with the benefits of Wingover and Flyby Attack that explicitly allows for use of e.g. the breath weapon in conjunction with it. Wounds struck by these fey bleed, and the amount increases if the target is struck by a sneak attack, and further if the target is subjected to one of the detrimental fear-based conditions.

The CR 5/MR 2 gancanagh azata gets a fey flute, which allows them to affect targets in a 60 ft.-radius with SPs sans counting towards daily uses. With their swashbuckler’s blade, they can use AoOs to penalize attack rolls; for mythic power, we get a parry, represented by the imho not very elegant comparing of attack rolls – on the plus-side, they may choose to take half damage and instead riposte, getting an AoO versus the attacker. The gancanagh’s kiss or caress banishes mental dominion, and may even, with mythic use expenditure, remove e.g. a succubus’ profane gift, though this is not guaranteed. Also at this CR/MR, we have the firbolg, whose weapons ignore 5 hardness or DR, and when targeting Medium or smaller creatures, the target must succeed on a save or have its defensive means reduced, though enhancement bonuses cannot be reduced. Additionally, mythic firbolgs get Death’s Decree – when they’d be killed, permanently incapacitated, etc., they may expend 1 mythic power as an immediate action to self breath of life or break enchantment. For an additional mythic power, the offender may also be targeted with a curse that prevents a use of a specific action for 1 year. Nice!

At CR 11/MR 4, the fellow on the cover, the famous nuckelavee can use its mythic power to double the range of its aura, and yes, it may spoil potions or food within its aura. Its signature mortasheen disease requires mythic magic to cure, and may be rendered highly contagious by the creature. Additionally, for mythic power use, the nuckelavee’s mythic iteration may speed up the progress of the vile disease. In their wake, they spread filth and disease, rendering water difficult terrain, and the creature’s rancid odor touches those hit by bite or breath with a truly foul smell. AWESOME!

The CR 17/MR 7 death coach comes with a reprint of the mythic Lightning Stance and receives an upgrade to its soul-collecting abilities that make them truly devastating; epic here: The mythic iteration can take a standard action at any point during its movement, and may take an additional one for mythic power expenditure. The coach also gets the ability to trample through targets of any size, with the chance to frighten those failing or foregoing their saves. Those struck cower (OUC) on a failed save, and protection from fear may end up being dispelled by such attacks. More than all of this, non-good creatures that have their soul collected may strike a bargain with death, fulfilling a quest in exchange for their souls…AWESOME. I adore this build. It makes the ghost carriage really work, is deadly, and oozes narrative potential, even at lower levels. Where was this critter when my main campaign was in Ravenloft?

The highest CR/MR creature herein would be the CR 19/MR 7 Nemhain, who gets some DR/epic for better staying power and the means to upgrade the SPs to their mythic iterations. Speaking of which: Will-saves vs. effects that deal positive energy damage? Those behave as though the critter had a specialized form of evasion. As a standard action, the nemhain may return to the location of their ritual objects, and the ritual object, if destroyed, repels the living, for one more chance. Oh, and the object may be fortified by the nemhain’s mythic powers. As a full-round action and for one mythic power, they may attack all creatures (up to Dexterity-modifier) that damaged her. Then, there would be the bound spirits ability: The Nemhain is surrounded by swirling cloud of spirits that may be directed as a swift action to attack within a 30-ft.-radius, and they can deliver harm and similar effects. These may also be sent forth as scouts, as a kind of impervious cloud – reminded me of my slaver of the damned design in a good way! While they share the nemhain’s space, they btw. net concealment and SR. I love how this high-level threat is all about resistance and striking incredibly hard – this fellow won’t be easy to slay!

Now, as always, the book does contain a totally new creature that doesn’t exist yet – this time around, that would be the lavishly-illustrated Cyhyraeth, a tragic and mighty incorporeal undead that clocks in at CR 15/MR 6. These spirits get rejuvenation, DR, and natural invisibility. The staves they wield threaten critical hits on 19-20, and on a critical hit, they may demoralize the targets. A target demoralized for more than one round cowers for 1 round, and the cyhyraeth may expend mythic power to prolong that. When striking a creature with their staff, they can expend mythic power to affect the target with fog cloud, save that only the target sees the fog! Nasty! As a move action, these spirits may release a tri-fold moan of demise; on a failed save, targets then hear the subsequent moans, even if deaf. The first moan also provides a debuff and increases damage taken from melee and ranged weapon attacks; the second moan further increases the penalty and also provides an increased threat range versus those affected by the moan, while the third moan causes death. The horrifying thing: Hearing a moan is permanent. Unless the creature is destroyed, the moans will keep their potency indefinitely – or unless removed with very high-powered mythic magic. When they cause fear or death, these spirits can call will-o’-wisps to their side, and 1/day, they can curse locations or vessels with deadly accidents – 50% chance on natural 1s to take damage. Oh, and yeah, they have a heart grip that may knock targets out – and yep, this may be used in conjunction with the staff… A glorious masterpiece of a critter here!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, and almost very good on a formal level; I noticed no serious hiccups, but a few cosmetic ones are here. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the original artworks presented are pure awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Welham and Jason Nelson are both true masters of creature-design, and its shows in this book, it really does. While the archetype left me less than blown away (I’d rate that, on its own, probably somewhere in the 3-4-star vicinity), the creatures, and that should be made abundantly clear, are all killer, no filler. There is not one mythic build herein that I wouldn’t vastly prefer over the original creature. This hold particularly true for the high-level creatures that actually have a chance of standing against mythic heroes, that all can carry their own adventures. They made me flash back, in the best of ways, to all those years upon years of Ravenloft-campaigns I ran, made me really stoked to run some gothic horror. So yeah, the series ends with a huge BANG, and not with a whimper – 5 stars + seal of approval.

On a personal side: I can’t believe I’ve reviewed 50 of these books. Tempus fugit, indeed. Anyways, I wanted to write something about it: The Mythic Monsters-series has redefined what I dare to expect from creatures, and what I frankly want to see from creature design. It represents a paradigm-shift away from solely new combinations of math, feats and spells/SPs, towards the mythological roots of the creatures, or, where not applicable, towards creatures that are set apart by unique abilities that make them stand out. They provide narrative potential beyond being stuff to be hacked apart, and present us with a great fusion of powerful crunch-skills and the narrative demands of, you know, ROLEplaying. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do so. Even if you don’t run mythic campaigns, your veteran players will enjoy the challenge these magnificent monsters provide. I will genuinely miss reviewing this series and am grateful for all the joy it has brought to my table. I raise my stein to all the talented designers that crafted this outstanding series! Here’s to you!

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This Star Log.EM-installment clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This supplement begins with the new Great Old One subtype graft: Great Old Ones are immune to ability damage and drain, aging, death effects, dead and dying conditions (YEP!), disease, mind-affecting effects, paralysis, petrification and polymorph effects. The Great old Ones get a stellar alignment variant unique to the respective Great Old One, and they have a 300 ft.-aura of unique effects. Oh, and they are genuinely immortal. Reducing them to a 0 Hit Points and Resolve just makes them dormant.

This graft alone is great already. It does not chicken out. It retains their essence – that they can’t be slain, only…postponed. Many a fantasy/science-fantasy/pulp game gets that wrong, so kudos from the get-go.

Cthulhi, as presented herein, are situated at CR 20, and use the spellcaster array, with SPs , etc. – they are immortal and have an overwhelming mind – basically a representation of the star-spawn, or for games that enjoy bashing Cthulhu-looking critter’s faces in.

Great Cthulhu, as befitting, is situated at CR 25, 700 HP, 8 Resolve, and uses the combatant array. Great Cthulhu gets resistance 25 against all core energy types, immunity to cold, a massive SR, and the claws attacks can behave as though they had the automatic special property, attacking targets in a 15-ft.-cone. Cthulhu can communicate with sleepers and invade their dreams; as a non-euclidean entity, all attacks against him have a 50% miss chance, and he is immune to being grappled or entangled – this may be offset with true seeing, but at the risk of insanity when gazing upon Cthulhu’s splendor. Cthulhu can use Mysticism to demoralize targets, and if the target is within range of his planetary telepathy, Cthulhu may spend Resolve send visions that can potentially scare the victim to death. Cthulhu can sense the creative, and may affect these targets at even longer ranges. Creatures affected by Cthulhu’s aura are affected by snuff life, and those damaged are staggered.

Cthulhu’s stellar portents feature has 3 modes: Unattuned, dreaming and waking. In dreaming mode, he can render sleepers insane, cause targets to fall asleep and gets some serious defensive boosts. Waking mode instead nets Cthulhu the option to make full attacks as a standard action, and, when fully attuned, a whole second turn per round! As far as his immortality is concerned – Cthulhu rejuvenates fully after 1 minute, and then is staggered for 1 minute. If slain AGAIN during this minute, he is truly sent back to R’lyeh. Good luck with that if your players think that trying this is a good idea…

There is one single thing I am not too fond of: Cthulhu’s flight (and that of the cthulhi) is extraordinary, when flying through the void is pretty much canon – that should probably be supernatural.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level (noticed e.g. a doubled “After a minute” and a “,.”, but nothing serious) and very good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and Jacob blackmon’s drawing of Cthulhu is easily one of my favorite pieces of his – I did not expect that it’d be possible for him to make a genuinely scary critter in his signature drawing style, but there you go – happy to be proven wrong. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ take on Great Old Ones is cool – it doesn’t chicken out, and the unique stellar attunement now makes me want Cthulhu-serving Solarians, seeking to wake their dread master. The build is cool, deadly and the cthulhi are a nice bonus. All in all, a great little pdf – well worth 5 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.


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***( )( )

This Star Log-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 introduction, we dive straight into the 16 new feats contained within. These would be:

-Adaptive Guard: Nets you an untyped +2 bonus to Reflex saves, and provides the option to choose a nearby target, increasing bonuses for fighting defensively and Reflex saves originating from that foe at the expense of being slightly more susceptible against assaults from others. Nice!

-Barreling Momentum: Requires Step Up and Improved Combat Maneuver (bull rush), and lets you Step Up to bull rush targets. NICE! (As an aside – pretty sure that should be “barreling” – the pdf writes the feat with two “l”s.)

-Burst Fire: Reduces damage dice employed by automatic weapon by half, but targets only one target. Takes single damage die weaponry into account. NICE, though this one warrants closer examination if SFRPG introduces burst fire mode weaponry.

-Cleaving Lunge: Combo-feat for Cleave and Lunge, with the option to spend Resolve Points to reduced the total AC penalty for using the feats in conjunction by half.

-Defending Counter: Readied melee attacks are resolved before the opponents attacks, and the attack roll may be used as EAC/KAC if you hit. Nice – makes readying actions actually viable and doesn’t require the annoying compare atk-values swingy mechanics. Kudos!

-Explosive Leap: When using automatic, blast, explode or line weapons, use Resolve to move backwards, utilizing the recoil. Also lets you rocket-jump when aiming to the floor. To nitpick: This should specify that the short term “fly speed” ought to be considered supernatural or extraordinary.

-Flurry of Swings: Makes your melee behave as though automatic, with a range of 5 ft. + natural reach. This would be utterly OP, but requires Resolve Points to power, so I’m kinda okay with it. Still, this is one I’d watch carefully.

-Grazing Critical: When you hit an opponent with a natural 19 or 20, you can spend ¼ of your total Resolve to treat the damage dice as though you rolled the maximum on the original damage dice. This one has a nasty glitch: It should refer to the maximum Resolve, not total you have, as the verbiage atm can be read to pertain Resolve you currently have, allowing for abuse when you only have a bit of Resolve remaining. Alternatively, this should at the very least have a minimum Resolve cost noted.

-Hammer the Gap: When using full attack, designate a target and spend 1 Resolve: All successful hits total damage for the purpose of DR etc. This is OP and the like already broke the system in PFRPG, tilting the game’s math even more in favor of attack. This should die.

-Improved Suppressive Fire: Toggle automatic weapons into a suppressive onslaught mode: Attack in a cone twice, at -4 per attack. Attack #1 is an attack, attack #2 provides covering or harrying fire. High prerequisites etc. make this viable.

-Merciful Strike: Does what it did in PF – gets rid of atk-penalty for using lethal weapons to deal nonlethal damage.

-Prone Shooter: When prone, you can steady your aim, gaining basically advantage on the next attack roll – rolling twice, taking the better result. Unwieldy weapons require a standard action to steady. Nice one.

-Selective Autofire: Shape automatic, blast, explode or line weapons to exclude a square. At BAB +5 and higher, spend Resolve to exclude any number of squares. I’d have made the latter scale based on BAB, but that may be me.

-Slamming Strike: When you hit an opponent in melee and surpass KAC by +4 or higher, you can spend 1 Resolve to treat the attack as a bull rush. There is no immediate action in SFRPG – this should refer to reactions.

-Snap Shot: You count as threatening squares when armed with ranged weapons you’re proficient with, provided they’re loaded. They may be used for AoOs, and doing so doesn’t cause AoOs.

-Tumbling Targeteer: Use Acrobatics (DC 15 + 1.5 times opponent’s CR) to negate AoOs for making ranged attacks. DC increases if threatened by multiple targets. Serious failure may see you flat-footed.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, an immediate action remnant and some balance-concerns regarding a few of these feats remain. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a nice artwork and no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Blaine Bass’ feats here provide a couple of nice options, but the pdf feels odd to me: A couple of the feats herein feel like they should be weapon rules (*cough* burst-fire), and I have some balance concerns regarding others. However, on the other hand, there also are some options that I consider to be rather cool, making this, in the end, pretty much a mixed bag that might require some vetting by the GM. My final verdict will be 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This massive collection of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 70 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The Deadly Gardens-series has, so far, provided quite a smattering of plant-creatures and related material, and this book collects the material in a handy compilation. From the get-go, we can see that this is not simply all the pdfs tacked together – the content has been reorganized in a sensible manner.

We begin the book with 4 new feats, which center around a couple of crucial components: There are feats that allow for the harvesting of poison from living creatures, for better resilience versus poisons, and, most interestingly perhaps, one that allows you to use poisons to treat diseases and addictions. The other key-feat included herein would be the Deadly Gardener-feat, which lets you Handle Animal plants without the DC-penalty, and even handle unintelligent plants and use wild empathy, if available, in conjunction with them. As far as organization is concerned, I’d have appreciated the plant companion stats that are provided for some creatures to feature here in the beginning as well – instead, they are located in the individual plant creature entries, which is slightly inconvenient, as most GMs probably wouldn’t want to hand out the creature-information.

From here, we get a couple of natural hazards like quagmires, and then move on to one of my favorite aspects of the series – the expansion of mechanically-meaningful terrain types – from kudzu to salt flats to razor shale and scree types, there are quite a few really amazing means to make combat more exciting and dynamic here. As a minor complaint: Damage types generally are concise, and so are the rules, but the scree types don’t mention the proper damage type they inflict –it is readily apparent that bludgeoning is correct here, though. Analogue, thickets should probably inflict piercing damage. These are cosmetic gripes, but I figured they’d warrant mentioning.

The next chapter is one of the hearts of the book, and seriously one of the best reasons to get the book: We receive a massive item-chapter. And I mean *massive* - if you’ve been following the series, you’ll know that it has championed natural items long before the release of Ultimate Wilderness, and did so rather well. Particularly for low level games and campaigns that enjoy a down-to-earth tone or a more dark fantasy and/or low/rare magic-approach, this’ll deliver in spades! If you’re like me and adore Playground Adventures’ fantastic Creature Component-books, then it should be noted that use of the books in conjunction is a pretty painless procedure!

Category-wise, the book first lists 5 alchemical items that include oil that hardens plant skin, liquid fertilizers, salt bombs, and the like – these are neat, but on a formal level, I noticed that sometimes there is a blank space between the gp amount and “gp”, and sometimes there isn’t. The salt bomb also mentions salt damage, which technically doesn’t exist, but seeing how circumstantial its effects are, I don’t necessarily object to that here to the extent where I’d usually do. The book then goes on to present 8 herbal remedies that range from aloe and lavender, to super-hot peppers that may sicken you with heat, but also help stave off the cold. Their benefits are subdued, nice and would theoretically be appropriate in even a no-magic game. Here, I have no nitpicks. The lion’s share of the items herein, though, are natural items – they note a source creature, the related skill check and the yield you can get from the target – as well as the price these components fetch on the market. The rules for preserving them are as simple and painless as the base engine. While quite a few of the natural items listed here are sourced from the new plant monsters that may be found within these pages, the majority hail from classic critters like intellect devourers, leucrottas, etc.

The eyes of accuser devils, for example, may be used as a kind of grotesque video camera that records things it sees; achaierai oil can be added to flame to create noxious, nauseating and nasty black smoke. Adherer tendrils may be used to facilitate the creation of sovereign glue. The voice-boxes of androsphinxes may be used to double the range of sound-based spells when used as a material component. Blood root vitae can be used to heal and also lesser restoration targets. Boggard tongues can be used as impromptu bungee ropes, while bulette musk is a kind of aphrodisiac that helps you influence those attracted to you via Diplomacy (Skill-reference not properly capitalized). The items also include e.g. items that can act as insect-repellant, as a power component to enhance fire magic, provide metamagic synergy, etc. I am still not a big fan of the cyclops eye soup, which makes the next critical threat within 8 hours automatically confirm. There are also small hiccups in the otherwise generally well-made rules language here – for example, an item that deals sonic damage, but its splash damage fails to properly type the splash damage’s damage type as sonic. This doesn’t impede the functionality of the items, but if you’re as anal-retentive as I am regarding these components, it may bug you here and there – a careful additional pass regarding rules-integrity could have further increased the value of this section. (As an aside – some of the glitches of the individual pdfs that I called out in my individual reviews have actually been rectified, so kudos for those!)

Beyond the ton of items, a massive table of almost 2 pages of natural poisons and 4 power components can also be found here. The book includes a new special material, an armor quality to grant/enhance woodland stride, and a whole array of magic items that include particularly smelly onions that you can eat to become really unappealing to eat (or get near…); there are classic quickly-growing beans, a silver apple that acts as a lycanthrope detector. The rules here generally are solid as well, often doing interesting things (such as with an assassin vine-based whip that can constrict on its own), but there also are some instances where damage is untyped that shouldn’t be.

Now, obviously, this being a compilation, the book also contains the stars of the Deadly Gardens-series – the monsters! From the lowly ophidian vine to the CR 23 Kaiju Verdaxag (who comes with a summary of kaiju traits and a spell to call for its wrath), the book contains a lot of interesting critters – and while it’s not included in the bookmarks, the wandering sundew is actually included in the book. The artworks btw. are sometimes glorious b/w (like the hypno-lotus) and sometimes in full color – in most instances, I ended up liking the b/w-pieces a bit more, though exceptions exist. Now, I really don’t enjoy repeating myself too much, so if you want a critter-by-critter discussion of everything within this tome, please do consult my reviews of the individual Deadly Gardens-installments.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are pretty good on a rules language level, but on a formal level, there are still a couple of minor hiccups present herein that should have been caught. Layout adheres to a nice and generally printer-friendly two-column standard, with matte backgrounds. The artworks are, for the most part, really nice, particularly considering the super-indie niche of the series. Really impressive! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, making navigation comfortable.

Russ Brown, Matthew Carroll, Kim Frandsen, Jeff Gomez, Chris Hunt, Sam Kaplan, Joe Kondrak, Jacob W. Michaels, Stephen Stack, Andrew Umphrey, Isaac Volynskiy, Mike Welham – considering this cadre of authors, it is pretty impressive to note how unified this book ultimately is. Compilations are difficult for me – on the one hand, I don’t want to unduly repeat myself; on the other, I still need to present valid advice and check the book. So yeah, this was a bunch of work, but work I’m glad I invested my time in.

There is value in this compilation, and it lies in convenience and organization – in contrast to the individual pdfs, you can have all those small tidbits and items all at the flick of the wrist, conveniently-presented in one book, and this ultimately renders the book a useful resource. If you do NOT have any Deadly Gardens installments so far, then this is most definitely the iteration I’d recommend getting. However, if you already have them, the usefulness of the compilation lies primarily in its unified presentation and organization. So yeah, as a whole, I consider this to be a good compilation product. While I would have loved to report that is has gotten rid of the small tidbits and inconsistencies, there are a few still here that made me wish this had received another editing pass to remove the remaining aesthetic blemishes. This notwithstanding, we have a rather nice book here, though my final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars for it – a good book, and an excellent resource if you’re new to the horrific plant-threats and natural items presented by the series.

Endzeitgeist out.


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***( )( )

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

So, it should be noted that we do get a nice, handout-style one-page version of the full-color artwork for the sentry robots in this book. Said robots come in three iterations, at CR 6, 9 and 12. They come with integrated lasers as the high attack, slams as the low attack. The slam attack’s damage output of the CR 6 robot is off by 1, and it should be noted that the damage-type indicators in the statblocks are using erroneously lower-case letters instead of uppercase letters – “b” instead of “B”, for example. It’s a cosmetic thing, but something that stuck out to me. On the defensive side of things, the robots have integrated force fields appropriate for their respective CR. I’m also pretty sure that the damage for the CR 9 sentry bot’s slam is odd – in contrast to the other two, it adds 1.5 Strength modifier to its slam attack damage for +18, instead of the default +15. This may, however, be an intentional decision, though not one I see reflected in the other statblocks.

The sentry bots, unsurprisingly, are constructs with the technological subtype, and the modifications have been properly applied. The bots are vulnerable to electricity and critical hits.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language level; on a formal level, this is solid, if not perfect. The pdf’s layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the artwork presented in full color is nice indeed. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jacob E. Blackmon’s sentry robots are solid obstacles to face; they probably won’t blow you away, but they are executed in a solid manner. If you’re looking for a couple of sentry robots for a fair price-point, and don’t want to bother with making some yourself, they are worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It should be noted that this module contains 3 pages of handouts – one depicting one of the more complex environments in b/w, and the other two provide full-color renditions of special cards that feature in the plot of the module. It should be noted that the module does also contain a full-page b/w-artwork of another key-scene, which is a handout in anything but name. As you could glean from the page-count, this review is based on the 2nd printing of the module.

Nominally, this adventure is intended for 6 – 10 4th level characters, though it should be noted that it is a BRUTAL adventure that may well result in a TPK. While difficult, the stakes do warrant this difficulty, and the adventure is fair in its brutal challenges posed. A well-rounded group is very much suggested, and the players should exercise sense and care when faced with the dangers within. The scales are high – as you could glean from the title, this module is about saving someone from the grasp of Death. If you’re groaning now, be aware that the module does acknowledge that there are bound to be multiple deities of death – the entity featured herein is just one of them, so no, this will not wreck your cosmology. I enjoy this premise per se, as I’ve been a huge enemy of the notion of the no-penalty death that many more current systems have employed. Death, in my game, tends to be final and requires a quest of serious severity, like the one presented herein, to beat. In that way, my aesthetics are very much aligned with DCC’s “Quest for it”-mentality, regardless of the actual game I’m playing. In case you do not have a dead PC or beloved NPC on your hands, the module does offer for an alternative hook, but ultimately, said alternate hook is pretty weak.

This module, as a default, is set within the city of Punjar, and does have some overlap with “Jewels of the Carnifex” - the Carnifex is actually related to Death, so if you’ve played that masterpiece, you’ll have a secondary angle. As an aside: Can we please have a Punjar boxed set?? Like, now? There have been few cities in fantasy gaming that I wanted to see detailed so badly.

But I digress. The module does provide rumors and information for PCs doing their legwork, and those groups failing to do so will be hard-pressed, so yeah – if by now you haven’t learned that your legwork matters in DCC, this will teach you – the painful way. The rumors and information is, in an interesting angle, grouped by class of those asked, and, as always, an encounter table is provided.

The module provides a ton of amazing read-aloud text oozing flavor, and begins as the PCs navigate a maze of tents and stalls towards the abode of the Witch of Saulin – but beyond that, anything I can relay would be firmly routed in the realm of SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.


..
.

All right, only judges around? The witch provides a reading using the card-handouts included, and depending on the card drawn, the PCs get different prophecies – and, later, benefits! And yes, they’ll need them. Badly. You see, Death has two divine daughters – the Carnifex and Máni, the latter of which would be a moon-deity. The Carnifex’ shrine in the Charnel pits contains the entry to the realm of Punjar’s Death, but to have any hope of living through this region, the PCs will need to acquire the legendary Argent Falx a mythical blade bestowed upon Máni’s cult at full moon, only to vanish once more with the moon’s phases. Tomorrow, there’ll be a full moon. The clock is ticking.

The first massive part of the module, then, would be a heist, and it is one of the best heist adventures I have read – PERIOD. From multiple means of egress and strategies (including infiltration, sneaking in, disguises, brute force, etc.) to the fact that it depicts the ziggurat of Máni, the religious service and the priesthood in a truly amazing manner: Blending genuine magic and divine grace with sleight of hand and components of the ritual provided by the priest-hood, this is amazing: A mirrored shaft, for example, may be a means of getting inside, but it *is* constructed to generate blinding light when the full moon ascends…oh, and if you’re like me and LOVE heists, it should also be noted that there is a “radiant victory”-clause: If the PCs manage to pull off the heist without casualties, they are rewarded for it! Huge kudos there!

In order to pass into the veils of death, the PCs will need to use the argent falx (or reasoning!) to placate the raging spirit of Moira and gain access to the realm of death – provided they can survive exploring the brutal realm of death and cruel mockery of an undead court held by the lich-like Rastvik and his undead cronies! His realm, a more conventional dungeon, btw., would be illustrated rather well. If the PCs managed to bypass Moira in some way, they will be faced with Eris and Death – a game of chance with the cards separating them from triumph or death…and yes, while cheating is possible, you’d better be lucky and know what you’re doing! Either way, this will remain in the memory of your players for years to come!

The bonus adventure in the second edition, “The Abbot of the Woods”, is also penned by Harley Stroh, and is intended for characters level 1 – 3. It is a brief dungeon exploration that focuses on a high-priest turned sect-guru, who sought immortality by staving off the 5 dooms of mankind. As such, the remnants of his complex contains pieces of the abbot and the dooms – and clever players will have a huge advantage here: You see, the dungeon teaches by showing how the abbot, in a way, achieved immortality by staving off the dooms, but also drove himself insane – the relicts that may be found can thus potentially end his tortured and maddened immortality, yes, but it also can free him. This, alas, will make him possess the whole damn dungeon as a twisted god-thing– and each of the relics can be used to weaken, and, finally, slay the abbot. This is actually really clever, and provided the PCs pissed off Death in “Blades Against Death”, may be a cool sidetrek to get back on the reaper’s good side…if that can be said to exist…

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Goodman Games’ two-column b/w-standard, and the b/w-artworks included are awesome. As always, the cartography in b/w is pure excellence, but particularly the heist really should have offered a player-friendly map for clever PCs to attain. The lack of player-friendly maps sucks. Speaking of which: The adventure has no bookmarks, which is a big no-go for the electronic version. I strongly suggest printing this or getting the print copy.

Harley Stroh’s “Blades against Death” is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It is one of the best heist-modules and Sword & Sorcery yarns I have ever read; while dipping its toes in the high-fantasy side of the sword & sorcery pond, it manages to deliver its content with such panache, that everything remains plausible without straining your sense of disbelief. From the awesome heist to the brutal dungeon, this module delivers with all of its components, managing to evoke an atmosphere that blew me away, that made me cackle with glee. The bonus module just adds icing on top of the awesome cake as far as I’m concerned, and content-wise, this should be deemed to be a must-own book for DCC-judges, and a recommendation for purchase even beyond the system. The module is just brilliant, and the flavor it oozes is fantastic. If you’re really picky and just want t play this using an electronic device, detract a star for the lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps, but if you print out your modules or go for print, consider this to be a must-own 5 stars + seal of approval gem, a module well worth the rarely awarded “best of”-tag as a testament to its awesomeness.

Harley Stroh delivers once more, in spades – now, dear Goodman games-crew, can we please get that Punjar boxed set? Please?? I so need that in my life…

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This collection of mythic items clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 47 pages, which, as always for Legendary Games, contain quite a lot of information, so let’s take a look!

This review as moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

All right, this book begins with a bit of advice regarding the use of mythic items in conjunction with nonmythic games and suggested rules for identifying them, before diving into legendary item abilities, 5 to be more precise: Inestimable beauty renders an item impervious and makes it behave as though it had an enhancement bonus of ½ tier. This one lets you use bardic performance (distraction/fascinate only) as a bard of your mythic tier level, with tier stacking with bard levels), and twice ranks for the purpose of using them. Legendary power may also be used to use enthrall or hypnotic pattern with a CL equal to HD + tier. Mighty servant lets the item assume the form of a Small or Medium construct, a Large form for legendary power, using a modified version of animated object stats, with the option to fortify it via mythic power expenditure.. Resonant regalia does what you’d expect – it provides a mechanical framework for the classic notion of multiple items in a set increasing power. Soul drinker can only be applied to weaponry, and does what it says on the tin, snuffing out lives and making it hard to return the slain to life. Soul safe, finally, reforms you body, lich-style, in the vicinity of the item when slain, and the item’s legendary power may be used to negate death effects etc.

After this, we get 4 new mythic armors: The cloudcloth armor is a padded armor that nets mistsight, allows for the assumption of mythic gaseous form, and it can also be used to force gaseous creatures into corporeal form or negate toxic gasses. Nice. The cuirass of miracles is a bolstering deathless determination armor made of elysian bronze, which is interested in that it enhances the determination ability and upgrades the breath of life effect to its mythic iteration. The armor may also store mythic surges, though storing these takes A LOT of downtime – thankfully. If the armor contains 7 surges, it gets an additional ability, which, while potent, will not be overused thus – it’s a last ace in the hole. Dragonmail is dragon-defiant energy resistance banded mail, applying the dragon defiant bonus universally to all dragons, but the armor does not provide flexible resistance; this is instead governed by the source-dragon’s hide. For mythic wearers, we also have the effects of evasion and a mythic power-based temporary improved evasion. Earthenport plate is a stoneplate engraved with mystic runes – these may be chanted to apply invulnerability, titan or wild temporarily to the armor; additionally, a different chant allows the wearer and surrounding area to soften stone etc., sink under, and teleport with all sunken-in characters to another place. This gets teleportation-blocking effects etc. right, and the armor is better for dwarves.

This section also provides the jawbone shield that is specifically designed to help against creatures with grab or Snatch – an AoO-shieldbash; 1/day, such a smash vs. a bite attack can temporarily wreck the fangs of a target. The mythic power/surge mechanics also interact neatly here. Minor complaint: The cost to create here has one number too much – the “0” noted should have been eliminated.

The pdf also contains 11 magic items: The blade-eating battleaxe is made from adamantine and can sunder multiple weapons at once, and parades/parries may trigger sunder assaults. There are three magic boomerangs included (one, comically, called boomerage in one of the funniest autocorrect typos I’ve seen in a while); these include a sharp boomerang that has an increased threat range and Constitution damage. It may be thrown in a buzzsaw-like 30-ft.-line for AoE-attacks; the second boomerang allows for ranged trips/feints and the use of other combat maneuvers. The third boomerang is all about ricocheting. Dauntless machete lets you move swiftly through natural difficult terrain, and even clear quickly magical plant-effects, and it can be used to become plant bane’d. Kinslayer’s knife helps you go Dalek-level “EXTERMINATE” regarding a bloodline -the keen kinslayer kukri allows the wielder to blood biography the wounded, and the name of the creature appears on the blade – really potent for games of intrigue, particularly since mythic power allows for the tracking down of relatives…ouch. Outback woomera is a spear-thrower club that may be used to enhance shortspears cast via it, and it also allows you to create magical foodstuffs.

Redflame trollblade is a mighty weapon created with an eye towards the destruction of trolls – and since it emits a long-range call, including a subliminal suggestion that compels trolls to seek out and attempt to destroy the wielder, it should come as no surprise that the blade gets enough use. Rokurokubi whips can transform their end into the screeching heads of the namesake monster, and alternatively act as a scarf and allow you to emulate the monster. Silverspark longbows were once created as means to hunt down evil witches and wizards, focusing on anti-caster tricks. Finally, there would be the tombo fan, a weapon that allows for flight in conjunction with bardic performances, including fluid turns.

4 rings are included, the first of them being the gauss ring, which can be sued to charge melee attacks or in grapples; rings of returning allow you to return to a destination after teleportation, a kind of failsafe; the ring of truth can really help inquisitors, but prevents lying…and the ring of warmth can be considered to be a kind of survival-angle in the cold regions out there. The book also features 4 different rods – the gnarlthorn rod doubles as a wounding Morningstar (or club) that also causes ability score damage alongside the options of using burst of nettles and similar plant-based effects. The pyroclastic rod allows for the creation of ash or volcanic storms, acting as a flaming light mace that can dispel cold effects; plus, it allows for entangling magma that may be hardened by cold damage. The rod of spell-focusing may be attuned to schools or the 4 core energy types and enhance the attuned spell effects…while the rod of defoliation allows you to go Dark Sun defiler.

The book also contains a massive selection of 31 (unless I’ve miscounted) mythic magic items that contain a who’s who of some of the greatest mythic items released by Legendary Games so far – the awesome yoke of the brazen bull and the classic witch’s broom may be found. Classic mythology gets its nods, the teeth of the hydra, and the oni mask, to note two. The hei tiki amulet and hei matau amulet are here, and magi will benefit particularly from the arcanamach’s vambraces, while prepared spellcasters will enjoy the book of the banned that allows for limited access to e.g. prohibited schools, acting as a great tool for complex investigations – my spellbook doesn’t have that spell! (The book can also be glamered and uses secret page…) From the crane kimono to the crown of iron sorcery and the diamond of everwinter, fans of Legendary Games will have a couple of smiles here. Errant’s gage are gloves that help with smite, challenge, etc.

Beyond those, we do also get a massive 16 different artifacts taken from legendary Games’ illustrious history – from the pirate queen’s pearl to the elder talisman, from the sacred scroll of language to the undead-horde assembling midnight beacon and the lucky mallet, from the golden fleece to the funerary pyramid, from fractured phylacteries to the good ole’ dimensional bomb and to the deva’s wings or the crescent blade of the green dragon, this book is a grand collection of awesome artifacts with proper mythic rule-interactions.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with the items often juggling very high-complexity concepts with panache. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a couple of full-color artworks that fans of LG will be familiar with – the cover of my copy looks a bit blurry, but the content and interior artwork etc. is as crisp as you’d expect. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jason Nelson, Loren Sieg, Pedro Coelho, Matt Goodall, Linda Zayas-Palmer, Thurston Hillman and Alexander Augunas are an all-star team, and it shows here.
While it should be noted that this is a kind of compilation (if you have as many LG-books as I do, there won’t be that much here for you); there is value in this book’s convenience of having a pretty massive selection of mythic items, all collected for your convenience instead of being spread out over a gazillion of different books. EDIT: I kinda assumed that to be a given, but to make the verbiage of my review clearer: This content is included in the Mythic Character Codex and Mythic Heroes Handbook, if you for example want only the items, this is definitely your go-to-place, and I applaud Legendary Games for providing a stand-alone version that allows the customers to have the option to get only the items, if desired. Full of cool ideas and resonant with myths, this is well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval; if you already own most LG-books, I’d instead advise in favor of getting the big books, though.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

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

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

So, one of the most unique components of the Xa-Osoro setting shared by Everyman Gaming and Rogue Genius Games would be blood space – and as such, the first page, beyond the introduction, offers us an encyclopedia-style summary of blood madness. The strange phenomenon was bred by the death of a star, the viscera of the dead sun Osoro. Its properties are thought to be linked to the abyss, and as such, the gigantic, interstellar pollution, is pretty nasty. The pdf provides a couple of different effects blood space had on different planets, which pretty much jumpstarted my imagination from the get-go.

Now, the next two pages provide all the rules that govern how corruptions work in Starfinder, but since I already explained the mechanics in my review of the excellent Occult Skill Guide: Classic Corruptions, I won’t repeat myself here and bore you – plus, I REALLY want to dive into the corruption!

Blood madness has Will as the associated save, and Charisma as the associated ability score; you may acquire this corruption through direct exposure or e.g. hemihigh (see Pop Culture Catalog: Vice Dens); at the latent stage, exposure nets you 1d6 corruption points, and the corruption actually progresses at the rate of 1 point per day, making it a ticking timebomb! The victims’ eyes start glowing red in the dark (cool), and their alignment drifts slowly towards Chaotic Evil. How to get rid of it? Well, ouch. You have to go to a righteous deity’s font, scoured until they reach 0 Hit Points and starts dying. Each round while thus close to death, the victim can spend 1 Resolve Point INSTEAD of stabilizing to roll a Will save. This reduces corruption points by 1d4. The victim remains dying, but does not die for failing to spend Resolve Points due to this. This is…BRUTAL. You really don’t want to get into a serious blood madness addiction! At stages 1 and 2 of the corruption, the character gains a mutation, and 3rd stage lets you choose either ferocity (or ferocious charge, if they already have ferocity) or another mutation. The final stage nets full-blown CE outsider apotheosis.

What mutations can you find? Well, there is a 28-entry d%-table, not counting the GM’s choice entry, and from becoming a tiefling to getting wings, climb speed (called, probably in a nod to Outlast, “Wall Rider”), a fluid form, a 1st-level polymorph form, you can become a shapechanger, become more resilient – these benefits are serious – and they should be, considering how brutal the corruption is!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ neat two-column full-color standard, and Jacob Blackmon’s artwork is really awesome this time around, easily one of my favorite pieces from his pen! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas provides a huge piece of the cool Xa-Osoro puzzle here, and it doesn’t disappoint! The corruption is brutal, visceral and tempting, a magical affliction and corruption that made me grin indeed, and its presence alone should provide a TON of adventure hooks for PCs and enemies alike; why did they turn violent? Blood madness. Fighting the corruption and its spread, taking care of spreading influence, etc. – I love this. Considering how stoked I am for the upcoming Grimmerspace setting and the possible crossovers with Xa-Osoro, this definitely will see a lot of use. Verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval, no doubt.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This installment of the Starfarer’s Codex-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction and a full page of combat feats listed alphabetically, we dive into the feats themselves, so let’s take a look!

Back-to-Back is neat: When an ally is in an area you threaten, foes get no benefit from flanking you or your ally, and the DC to make a trick attack against you or your ally increases by +3. Bolster increases Stamina replenishment of allies of you if either is within 30 ft., increasing the amount by ½ character level. Note that RAW this does not extend to yourself, which is an interesting component. Cooler imposes a penalty on saves to all targets you threaten, which applies versus effects created by allies that are not threatened by the foe. Coordinated Casting is cool, in that spells with no effects can provide an opening for allies to attack the adversary. Coordinated Defense can provide a bonus to AC from targets farther away than you are; Coordinated Fire nets a bonus to attack to an ally after you missed a target.

Coordinated Maneuvers helps prevent AoOs when allies leave spaces you threaten. Coordinated Mental/Physical Aid are two feats that makes allies nearby benefit from aid another when using either mental or physical skill checks. Coordinated Onslaught nets bonus damage for allies versus foes you threaten in melee, with the bonus damage scaling based on your base attack bonus increases. Coordinated Strike helps allies attack your foes (minor nitpick: typo here – “tat” should read “that”); Coordinated Volley is pretty strong when compared to many other feats herein: When an ally in a space you threaten makes a ranged attack or casts a spell, they provoke no AoOs.

Enfilade nets a bonus to cover and harrying fire, and slightly increases the benefits. Harassing Assault penalizes the attack roll of targets you threaten. Harmonic Mysticism increases CL of spells and SPs when an ally casts in your threatened spaces. Invigorating Healing adds a short-term buff to abilities that restore SP or HP – and yes, the surprisingly complex rules requirements here are solid. Load Out is AWESOME: It lets you carry one team member of your size or less with only a 5 ft. reduction to speed, regardless of bulk. This is AWESOME. Lucky Charm is missing an “is” in the text, and enhances saves of allies from foes. Overwatch increases Perception and AC vs. AoOs in the vicinity; Spotter is another gem: Allies within 10 ft. may exclude one team member from area attacks or instantaneous area effects. Heck yeah! Thermal Shock, finally, is interesting as well, enhancing damage when you oscillate between cold and fire damage.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language level, and slightly less awesome on a formal level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf even has bookmarks, in spite of its brevity – kudos. The pdf sports two decent full-color artworks, one of which you can see on the cover.

Owen K.C. Stephens obviously knows Starfinder like the back of his hand. In an interesting and conscious deviation from default SFRPG design paradigm, the bonuses bestowed by these feats may often be small, but they are untyped, not the default insight, which allows them to synergize with other SFRPG feats seamlessly. As a general note, the feats are on the same power-level and should not break the balance of the game, though Coordinated Volley is pretty potent. Spotter, though, is a true gem that you wouldn’t expect from the humble name, and Load Out is certainly a cool feat as well; not one most power gamers will want to take, but definitely a fun one. All in all, I consider this to be well worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

*****

The revised edition of this expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue because it provides a serious revision, and I want to reward publishers for caring. The correct file to download is btw. the one with” 1.2” at the end.

After a brief flavor-introduction, we start with the archetype section, but this time around, it is more prudent to skip ahead and return to these later, for this supplement, unlike previous Spheres-expansions, presents a wholly new sphere, the Blood Sphere.

The base ability of this sphere would be Blood Control: As a standard action, you establish a link to the blood of a target creature within close range. Unwilling targets receive a Fortitude save to prevent the establishing of the link, and targets at less than half maximum hit points or currently suffering from bleed damage suffer a -4 penalty to this saving throw. Creatures immune to bleed damage due to type, subtype or template are immune to blood control, but sources that otherwise bestow immunity do NOT prevent the use of blood control – an important distinguishing component that retains the sphere’s viability. A creature affected by blood control may use a mental-only standard action to repeat the Fortitude saving throw, which may even be used when dazed or nauseated. A second creature attempting to establish blood control over a target already controlled must succeed on a magic skill check.

As part of establishing blood control, you may also apply one (quicken) or (still) ability, and once established, a standard action may be used to apply additional of these effects, unless otherwise noted, as a standard action. This doubles as counting as concentration on ongoing blood control. If you can concentrate as a move action, this may work in conjunction with such sped up effects as well.

As you could glean from that, the tags to look out for among the effects are (quicken) and (still) – and you probably have deduced that these cancel each other out, not unlike the modes of certain antipodean casters or solarians: A (still) talent ends a (quicken) talent and vice versa (typo there – it’s “vice”, not “vise”, but that’s cosmetic only) – a target can’t be affected by both a (quicken) and (still) talent at the same time, with the new effect superseding the old one. Notice something? If you’re reading my review on my homepage, you’ll have noticed that blood control is now properly rendered in italics – this greatly enhances the readability of the at times complex rules presented within.

The blood sphere nets Bleed (quicken, which causes caster level damage that may not be stilled until blood control ends; Coagulate (still) is the inverse, and reduces bleed damage by 1 + 1 per 3 caster levels, and creatures using abilities that would cause bleed effects must succeed a magic skill check to avoid having the damage negated. Non-magic means substitute the BAB instead – yep, this is Spheres of Might compatible with e.g. blooded strike.

There are, unless I have miscounted, 24 blood sphere basic talents included, so let’s take a look at some of them – and let us begin with the untagged ones. Self Control allows yourself to be treated as always under the effects of your own blood control, and allows you to use (quicken) or (still) abilities on yourself as a swift action. You also don’t count towards the limit of Mass Control. This talent allows you to spend an additional spell point to target 1 additional creature per 2 caster levels (minimum 1) within range, with all needing to be affected by the same ability. This additional cost only applies once when used in conjunction with blood control. (Nice catch!) Slick penalizes targets under the effect of your blood control regarding CMD versus maneuver like disarm, trip, etc., and the effect may be started and ended as a free action. Interesting to note: While this is an untagged talent, it has a second use that is designated as (quicken), namely the means to make the blood potentially having the target fall prone; for spell point expenditure, this can render the blood a slick patch that may make others that enter it fall as well.

Red Mist lets you evaporate blood streaming forth from blood control’d victims, generating concealment, with the option of spell point expenditure to increase the area of effect. Kudos: This does get interaction with winds, sight, etc. – and it has a cool angle: You can choose to take Constitution damage to make all creatures in the mist treated as though they were bleeding for the purpose of blood control saves. There is a talent called Lengthened Control that allows you to make blood control last longer – useful for buffing, as you can still, obviously, save; Lingering Control lets your blood control remain in effect for a number of rounds after you cease concentrating on it Hemorrhage increases the damage output of bleed (quicken); Improved Range extends range, and Improved Bleed increases the DC to stop the bleed (quicken) ability. Really cool: Mana Bleed allows you to drain away spell points or spell slots, with equivalents provided and the loss increasing based on caster levels. This can be combined with Absorb Blood to grant temporary spell points, though thankfully it does have an anti-abuse caveat. Absorb Blood allows you to grant temporary hit points and cause Constitution damage to heal damage, and much to my pleasant surprise, the latter has a spell point cost that prevents the ability from being cheesed – and yes, Mass Control synergy does exist, and yes, this combination still retains its rules-integrity.

Blood Tracking may be taken twice, rendering you always aware of blood control’d and bleeding targets, and even blindsight for such targets upon taking it a second time. Crimson Vortex allows you to create a kind of blood sphere trap that may be maintained and moved, with spell point expenditure as a means to increase the radius. Exsanguinating Strike allows for use of blood control in conjunction with attacks, including Spell Attack. Inject lets you increase casting duration of blood control and take Constitution damage and make a ranged or melee touch attack (ranges tightly defined!), and if you have Hemokinesis, you may hold this charge. If successful, the target is treated as though bleeding for the purposes of blood control save penalty, and you get to ignore SR for the purpose of Blood sphere effects for some time. Cool: Immersion in water etc. may end the effect. More importantly: This talent does allow you to bypass type/subtype/template-based Blood sphere immunity. And yes, Mass Control synergy is provided.

What is Hemokinesis? Well, it is a kind of blood-themed telekinesis with multiple options, including synergy with Slick, the option to make Blood Constructs (yep, you can make them with the right talent!) fly, generate arcs of blood that may blind targets or even transmit alchemical effects or diseases. (Yep, Spheres of Might fans – Alchemy-synergy!) With Greater Blood Control, you can spend an addition spell point or increase casting time by one step to apply two effects of a (quicken) or (still) talent. (This gets action economy discrepancy verbiage right – good catch.)

Since I already mentioned the option to make blood construct, let us take a look at the tagged talents – which btw. sometimes tend to have (quicken/still) noted – yep, there are quite a few that offer more than one option. Manipulate Health acts as a kind of variant status, with means to make diseases nasty or get rid of them added. Manipulate Alchemy is a pretty genius one, as it allows you to exert your control over blood to affect the circulation and potency of formulae, potions and poisons, including the means to force such effects from a target. Control Oxygen provides a variant haste that thankfully can’t be stacked atop similar effects, and also comes with options for fatigue-based condition manipulation. And yep, it has a cooldown to prevent abuse of e.g. constant rage-cycling exploits. Note: In a VERY limited manner, this still allows for very limited rage-cycling, but not to an extent that would exceed options already available.

The Blood Puppet (quicken) talent does what you think it does – it lets you control targets over their blood! AWESOME. Migraine is a sickening pain effect, while the (still) talent Numb acts as a nasty deduff. Big plus: Interaction with other spheres like Duelist, Divination, etc. is provided.

Among the advanced talents, we have 3: Puppet Master lets you make all puppets perform the same sequence; Sanguine Minion enhances your blood constructs, Overclock is an upgrade of the oxygen-controlling haste effect, though at the cost of burn – still, awesome! Drain Lifeblood lets you cause Constitution bleed, and Arrest Flow (still) is restricted to high levels and can render the target unconscious. These are well-placed as advanced talents – potent, yet tight. Like them!

Okay, now that we know how the Blood Sphere operates, let’s take a look at the 3 archetypes included: the Bloodscarred symbiat replaces Linguistics with Bluff and uses Charisma as governing class ability and spellcasting ability score. Mental powers are replaced with the Blood sphere, and, since they have a strong vampire angle, the bloodscarred gets the option to check the presence of undead, a scaling bite attack (including high-level minor temporary hit points that will not unbalance the game), wall clinging, darkvision (or darkvision range increase), mist form and a Mind Control variant. Psionics are replaced with the ability to ignore the negative effects of negative levels and a capstone that enhances their vampiric domination. Nice one.

Hemophage bloodragers are only proficient with simple weapons, light armor and bucklers and is a Low-Caster using Charisma, with class level + Charisma modifier spell points. Fast movement and bloodline feats, if the proficiency list was not enough indicator, are lost in favor of blended training. Instead of a bloodline, these folks can access bloodlines by drinking the blood of creatures with the appropriate bloodline or associated creatures, gaining use of the bloodline powers. Big plus: No, you can’t cheese the ability to gain infinite use bloodline powers by cycling bloodlines. Blood must be harvested fresh, but a limited amount of special draughts may be prepared, with creature-sizes and draughts they can provided noted. Nice: This, probably by design, arrives at similar caps as my own blood-based designs and those of similar supplements. A handy list is provided for suggested types and bloodlines, and per se, only the bloodrager’s core bloodlines may be taken thus, though your home-game may allow for more. The bloodrage enhancement abilities are modified to work in conjunction with the sphere-system instead.

The Hemetic philosopher alchemist gains all knowledge skills as class skills and is an Intelligence-based Mid-Caster with class level + Intelligence modifier spell points and a magic talent gain with every caster level attained. Throw anything and bombs are replaced with the Blood sphere, using class level as CL. Swift alchemy and poison use/resistance/immunity are replaced at 3rd level with crimson vials. The character can spend one minute to create a temporary potion, which may be done as a full-round action for one spell point. This does provoke an AoO, and the potion only lasts for 1 hour per class level and its complexity may not exceed 1 per 3 class levels. The archetype can have up to Intelligence modifier such potions, and the character can create potions at a lower caster level. Since the potion is made from his blood, this doesn’t cost gold, but requires a scaling save that causes damage – and this damage MAY NOT BE HEALED save via resting. Higher levels allows you to ignore sphere prerequisites, but at the cost of an increased DC.

The pdf also offers means for alchemists to take the Blood Potion feat, and a rage power that provides minor healing to barbarians (can’t be cheesed, based on limited resource); beyond that, we do get a nice incanter sphere specialization, a prodigy imbue sequence (HOORAY!!!) that lets you extract blood constructs as finishers (awesome) the Monster troubadour trope that lets you smell fear, climb, healed by negative energy – very Hyde-like. There also would be the Path of the Moroi for the Wraith class (review forthcoming).

The book contains 14 new feats, with aforementioned Blood Potion allowing you to create potions that may only ever affect you, but you can activate multiple ones, or do so as a swift action. Gaining blood drain, acidic or burning blood (good ole’ Geralt’s Black Blood, anyone?) – cool. The latter burning/acidic blood can be weaponized via Hemokinesis. Want a humor familiar? You can have that. You can wrap extracted blood constructs as a kind of blood-based power-armor around willing allies (OUCH!), and e.g. feats to negate AoOs, adding (form) talents to constructs, combining death and blood – nice. Champion feats, though, are, with the options for Blood-using Duelists can attain their weaponry to blood spilled, for example: Bloodmonger and Spell Attack are reproduced here. Of course, an (Admixture) feat for Destruction-users may be found. Reservoir nets you blood points that you may, for example, store in a new item – crimson flasks. The points can be used to mitigate the Constitution damage/bleed costs of Blood sphere abilities, fyi.
Two really cool unified traditions, 3 sphere-specific drawbacks, a boon and two properly codified traits are provided. The pdf also sports 3 alternate racial traits, two of which are for Skybourne races.

The book contains two rituals: Water from blood is level 0 and does what it says on the tin (love it), and lifeblood sacrifice lets you kill a willing or helpless creature to restore life to a dead target. There also is a neat level 5 incantation, steal lifeblood, which allows you to go Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed and become younger via blood. Speaking of which – yep there is a blood bath artifact. Oh yeah. At +1, the thirsty weapon special ability also ties in with the aforementioned Reservoir engine as basically a storage extension. Rules for crafting Blood sphere items in conjunction with the sphere-crafting rules can be found.

Absolutely awesome: There are optional rules provided that propose blood as spell component and focus, or as a substitute for alchemical components. Oread blood as acid flasks, for example. This may just be a page, and just a start, but I LOVE it. It makes adventuring matter. Aforementioned blood constructs: 7 stats, from CR 1/3 to 11, with familiar notes where applicable, are provided. We also get stats for the CR 1/3 humoral ooze and CR 3 mosquito swarms. The book closes on one final, triumphant inclusion that I got ready to complain about when opening it for the first time: Yes, it does come with its own, custom 100-entry strong Wild Magic-table! AWESOME.

Part II of my review of the revised edition can be found here!


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This installment of the Mythic plugins provided by Legendary Games clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD (though one of these contains an artwork and Wounded Paw Gambit), 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, though, as always for these books, it should be noted that there is quite a lot of text crammed into this supplement.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

Now, as always, we get a metric ton of feats in this supplement – this time around, we cover all the feats that are included in the Advanced Class Guide. Organization-wise, we first get an alphabetical list, and then one that groups them by type. This is per se cool, but unlike some installments in the series, the first list is not internally hyperlinked.

All right, as always, I can’t go through all the 100+ feats in this supplement feat-by-feat without wrecking the utility of this review utterly; as such, my focus here will instead be to provide an overview of the material contained within. The mythic iteration of Aberrant Tumor allows you to choose any familiar allowed to wizards as tumor familiar, and said tumor familiar gets one alchemist discovery chosen from a list, with your level substituted for prerequisites. You gain the benefits of the discovery while the familiar is attached. Amateur Investigator nets you an investigator talent, Amateur Swashbuckler a limited array of panache points and a 3rd-level deed. Both have trade-in option available and the former does mention the caveats that take into account when a talent would require a base ability to modify – it’s not gained. Animal Soul optionally allows you to be affected by animal-targeting spells, and mythic power expenditure lets you affect your companion. Minor nitpick: Unlike in the big book, this one does miss an italicization here. This is not the only such minor formatting snafu herein: Believer’s Hands, for example, does not properly bold “Prerequisites” and “Benefit” – this one, just fyi, makes your character level act as paladin level, and nets you a mercy for every three tiers.

Anticipate Dodge provides knowledge of the target’s dodge bonus, as well as numerical escalation, adding ½ mythic tier to the base feat’s bonuses. Battle Cry is another example for such an escalation in numbers, doubling the bonuses granted, and allowing for the expenditure of mythic power to increase duration. Another such twist would be e.g. Befuddling Strike – here, we have a DC-increase as well as the option to use more than one per round. Finally, this one allows you to substitute mythic power expenditure for daily uses. Winter’s Strike also allows for the use of mythic power in that manner. Confounding Tumble Deed would be another example of such an option, as would Distracting Charge. Killing Flourish presents a neat example here: +1/2 tier to Intimidate, +full tier for one mythic power use.

Blasting Charge is a straight up damage increase, with double the increase available for mythic power expenditure, and there are quite a few of those: Canny Tumble or Coordinated Shot, to name two, provide a static bonus increase. The Jabbing Style feat tree provides a similar increase, save that here it pertains the size of bonus damage die employed – the Jabbing Dancer feat, however, allows for pretty free maneuverability within the reach of targets hit, which can be a godsend. Dual Enhancement is nice for TWFing characters, as it allows you to spend a use of mythic power to apply the special ability to the second weapon as well.

There are plenty of tactically more interesting options within as well: Channeled Blessing, for example, adds channel energy to the delivery of channeled blessings, and allows for the use of mythic power to extend the blessing’s effects – and, here’s the kicker, domains and revelations allow for the use in conjunction with this ability as well. The latter may just be a line, but it’s a big one. The mythic iteration of Barroom Brawler makes you count as both monk and fighter, with 8th and 10th level providing an additional combat feat at a given time. Blessed Striker makes your attacks also be treated as magic and epic. Disarming Threat Deed allows you in its mythic iteration to have the target remain indifferent for mythic power expenditure. Gruesome Slaughter provides a DC-increase, and similarly, Improved Awesome Blow provides an escalation of numbers. Surprise Maneuver nets you +1/2 tier to the maneuver check, Twist Away to Reflex saves – you get the idea.

Interesting and testament that the LG-crew is very much cognizant of the evolution of the game: Extra Arcanist Exploit, for example, allows you to poach psychic phrenic amplifications, alchemist discoveries, magus arcana or witch hexes, and Extra Inspiration lets you spend mythic power to replenish your inspiration pool if it’s empty – no, it can’t be cheesed. Extra Martial Flexibility nets you access to the mythic feat’s iteration as well and slayers get to choose material from the vigilante’s arsenal with Extra Slayer Talent. Kudos for not staying just within the design-paradigm of the books released up to and including the ACG! Indeed, such flexibility is a theme in more than one instance: Flexible Hex may be shifted an additional time per day; Flexible Wizardry allows for an additional spell to be prepared. Unfettered Familiar also gets an additional daily use.

Want to play a fanatic? With the mythic versions of Extreme Prejudice and Seething Hatred, you get d10 sneak attack dice and can spend mythic power for triple damage versus the targets of your hatred! Ouch! There are delimiters, like Improved Studied Combatant (bonus equals character level, no limits on how often per day a target may be affected), which act as means to provide a soft form of gestalting, which, considering the vast power of mythic gameplay, seems feasible.

Tactically really cool: Intercept Charge nets you a bonus to AC, which you may, per mythic power expenditure, apply versus all of that opponents attacks, making pounce etc. less of a painful proposal for the knights saving their squishy buddies. Lunging Spell Touch’s mythic iteration gets rid of the -2 penalty to AC versus the creature on a hit; for mythic power expenditure, the hit-clause drops away. Manifest Blood is intriguing, as it penalizes attacking creatures with negative conditions on a failed Fortitude save. Nice: Raging Absorption has an anti-abuse caveat for its bloodrage-replenishing effects.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good on a formal and rules-language level. There isn’t much to complain about herein. The pdf adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the book features nice full-color artworks, most of which should be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Margherita Tramontano, Jason Nelson and Julian Neale have my utmost respect for this one. Making mythic feat upgrades can be rather hard work, and personally, there are few books where I’d consider that statement to be as true as the ACG. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the Advanced Class Guide at the best of days; the book represents, to me a design dead-end, and one that thankfully was abandoned when Occult Adventures, Ultimate Intrigue etc. were released. That being said, there are plenty of components in the ACG that I *do* like and consider to be worth salvaging, and having the mythic upgrades done for me? Heck yeah, that’s a level of convenience I very much applaud. That being said, plenty of the base feats simply didn’t have that much to work with – where the options in the later books provided breadth that the Legendary Games-crew used to broaden the options further, the ACG is all about the escalation of numbers.

Bearing this in mind, and consulting the source material feats the designers had to work with, this book must be lauded as a success. While there isn’t as much in the ways of novel options or far-out new gambits, what this one has wrought from the often rather thin premises of the base feats certainly deserved to be applauded. This may not be my favorite in the series, sure – but a) that was to be expected, courtesy of the source materials, and b) it certainly is the one that I’m most happy about not having to do it on my own. ;)

All in all, I consider this to be a collection of upgrades worth owning, and thus, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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A Cursory Dissection of Doomsday Dawn


An Endzeitgeist.com article

So, honestly, I wrestled with myself on whether or not to post this, because, ultimately, I don’t want to come off as a doomsayer or overtly negative regarding a system I am very much excited for. However, multiple folks asked me to share my thoughts on the subject matter of this adventure-anthology, so here goes.

It should be noted that this is no traditional review; the reasons for this will become evident over the course of this discussion. I will not dissect this module regarding its mechanics, as, considering the playtest-nature of the whole enterprise, that wouldn’t really be helpful – particularly due to the fact that I think that the problems of this adventure do not lie within either mechanics or the playtesting module concept per se.

I am going to SPOIL a lot of Doomsday Dawn’s plot, so if you haven’t already finished it, please be aware of that. I also assume that you know about the module’s plot below.

..

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So, Doomsday Dawn is a bit of a centaur-like entity, if anything. It is very ambitious in that it attempts to do multiple things that are, at least to a degree, in direct opposition to one another:

Provide a nostalgia-infused sendoff for Pathfinder’s 1st
Deliver meaningful playtest data, which requires pitting players against situations that strain the systems of the game (and thus aren’t always fun).
Tell an epic story across multiple years.
Showcase the amazing stuff that PF Playtest/2 can do.

If this sounds familiar to some of you, then that obviously would be because it is, in some aspects, reminiscent of the practices of early access AAA-videogame development, with the crucial difference that Paizo actually has the means and desire to listen to the feedback of the fans, and, at least as far as we could see so far, really takes our concerns to heart. This is no fake BETA like Fallout 76, Anthem, et al.

That being said, I often encountered two points of view:

“Doomsday Dawn isn’t fun for reasons xyz.”
“Yeah, because it has to deliver playtest data!”

The problem with this type of reasoning is that this is not necessarily what Doomsday Dawn was sold as. Sure, being intended for playtest purposes is fine and all, but a more pronounced caveat would have mitigated some of the backlash the adventure (and system) received. In a way, the advertisement of Doomsday Dawn was one component that set it up for, at least partial, failure.

To be frank, I don’t think that Doomsday Dawn succeeded at fulfilling its ambitious baseline, but not due to the reasons that most folks would expect, and not due to how advertising it was handled.

Instead, I think that the crucial failure of this adventure-compilation is, ultimately, one of scope and scale, depending on how you look at it.

So, let’s start from the top – let’s talk about the overarching story.

I actually genuinely like it. The call-backs to classic modules, the way in which Doomsday Dawn presents an obscure and cataclysmic threat, the notion of mindquakes, the sheer stakes – the story is great. Reading about The Last Theorem and The White Axiom made me excited, nay, stoked – this notion of language shaping reality ties in with several theories near and dear to my heart, and as soon as the module’s full scope becomes evident, it can genuinely send a shiver down one’s spine.

The problem of Doomsday Dawn, from a narrative point of view, is that it takes quite a lot of time to convey the atmosphere and stakes, and that the playtesting, and, more importantly, lack of room available to develop the narrative, get in the way of fully appreciating the inspired concepts of the meta-plot.

Don’t believe me?

Okay, tell me 5 details about the good guys, the “Esoteric Order of the Palantine Eye.” I’ll be waiting.

Yeah, figured.

Okay, know what my impressions were? “Generic esoteric order that’s secretive for no reason, and they’re obviously utterly incompetent. Their guys slip up and tell hired muscle they’re working for a secret order? IRL, that’d be the time when I’d be out of the door.” We also have NO IDEA about their resources, customs, what they stand for, etc. – they are entirely defined through their opposition to the bad guys. We have no ideas about symbols, greetings, etc. A simple, small sidebar with at least a few details could have a) vastly enhanced the roleplaying interactions and b) actually made the PCs and, more importantly, the PLAYERS, invested in the order.

This would particularly have helped during the “intended TPK scenario”, which casts the PCs as hired muscle for a cause they don’t understand. This lack of connection makes the whole chapter feel, also in the read-aloud text, like a module-version of “War. War is hell.” There is no reason to sacrifice yourself per se, apart from the words of your superiors. The cause doesn’t seem worth it from a PC perspective. From a player-perspective, at this point things look better, but still. It’s just the most obvious example of the issue that plagues Doomsday Dawn throughout. I don’t expect custom angles and hooks, mind you – but knowing for what you’re fighting, feeling like you’re PART of the order of guardians against the things from beyond? That’d have been a powerful motivator for PCs and players alike. Think about it: It’d have provided this conviction that, even though you may suffer and die, you’re doing the right thing – you’re saving, literally, the world.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“The Lost Star” had me flash back to the days when Episode 1 hit the silver screens, in particular, ill-omened George Lucas’ statement that “everything rhymes.” In a way, much like the final dungeon of Rise of the Runelords #1: Burnt Offerings, we have a pretty vanilla fantasy dungeon-crawl, with a few tidbits thrown in: There would be a few hazards/traps that are a bit beyond what you’d expect, and here, PF Playtest highlights how its engine makes traps and hazards less of a “cross and invisible line for damage” thing, and more like something that can be meaningfully interacted with. This is a HUGE plus for PF Playtest, and an aspect of the system that I genuinely love. Drakus the Taker feels akin to Nualia, in that he’s a random boss that hints at the larger story awaiting. Drakus is interesting in that he highlights what the system can do with bosses. This adventure, as a whole, is decent, but suffers from the fact that a) it had less room to develop its dungeon and antagonist than RotRL #1, and b) is also a somewhat less interesting dungeon. In the original RotRL #1, at this point players were already invested in Sandpoint, had finished some smaller dungeons and encounters, etc. – here, it’s just a goblin-dungeon, like we’ve cleared about a bazillion times in various systems so far. The failure of this module, why it fails to garner the same impact, is one of scale and context – and that, alas, is a leitmotif for Doomsday Dawn.

“In Pale Mountain’s Shadow” introductory prose makes the Esoteric Order look like bumbling buffoons, which doesn’t really help the narrative. The trek through the foothills suffers from a lack of player choice and agenda, but the main failure of the module, to me, lies in the “Chamber of Planar Alignment”, which presents a puzzle that may as well not be there. Instead of presenting a gorgeous handout, a beautiful artwork, instead of having the players figure out the puzzle, it’s a series of checks. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t object to that per se, but here, this looks very much like a puzzle that should have been solvable by the players, with the OPTION to brute-force it with checks (or by waiting for the antagonists). This is not a puzzle, it’s an exercise in rolling the dice. It is abstract in the most unrewarding way possible. Considering how games have moved towards ROLEplaying, towards blending the rolling of the dice with actual roleplaying, this is, to me, a pretty big downer, and something that could have really highlighted a difference in design paradigm for PF Playtest. It’s also one of the aspects that made me rather apprehensive and something I genuinely hope Paizo will move away from.

Indeed, this ties in with another aspect of Doomsday Dawn: VTTs/player-friendly maps. They are pretty much a staple for the vast majority of 3pps out there, and from handouts to such maps, I really think that Paizo should step up their game in that regard. There is no reason the PCs shouldn’t have a keyless version of e.g. Sombrefell Hall. Don’t get me wrong: The module is a step in the right direction, with the neat keyless maps that ARE provided. I just don’t think it’s enough when compared to the handouts that modules by Goodman Games, for example, provide constantly.

Speaking of which. “Affair at Sombrefell Hall” could have EASILY been a truly remarkable adventure, but once more, is held in check by the scope it has to develop its ideas. The same meaningful playtest data could have been collected with a few tweaks: 1) make the situation more complex/include more NPC interaction. This is one of two modules herein that feature a bit of investigation, and it’s as basic, obvious and unrewarding as it gets. It feels a bit like a less nuanced version of Evil Dead. Similarly, the module could have used the valuable asset of the system regarding the streamlined interaction with the environment in combat to lighten up combat and highlight what the system offers regarding sensible interaction. The front-loaded roleplaying could have been injected in-between waves of undead for a more rounded and less redundant experience. Once more, the scale, the wordcount available, really hampers what this module could have easily been.

“The Mirrored Moon” is the adventure herein that perhaps best encompasses the issues regarding scale that plague Doomsday Dawn. This module could best be called “needless and nonsensical implementation of subsystems, the module” – treasure points, ally points, research points – I like all of these in theory. The issue of this chapter is, however, that none of these systems contribute anything meaningful to the adventure. When do you use points as an abstraction in adventure-design? When too many factors accrue to make the listing of individual consequences of actions feasible, when the if-then-diagrams would become too sprawling. I *LIKE* resource-gathering like this; I don’t object to using abstract means to determine the like. But here? There are a grand total of 3 (!!) entries for the consequence of research points, and a similar amount for ally points. Not every point ever matters, which ultimately DETRACTS from the feeling that the actions of PCs have consequences – because that third ally or research point?

It.Does.Not.Matter.

If not every point counts, why bother with the point systems anyway? Why not state: 2 allies = x; 4 equals =y – this just creates a false illusion of a degree of differentiation that is just not here. In fact, most GMs would probably improvise a more nuanced action-consequence ratio here. Why bother at all with the point systems? Oh yeah, to showcase them. Thing is, while I LIKE them as concepts, their implementation here is so clumsy, it’d be funny, were it not so sad. I am almost 100% certain that this part of Doomsday Dawn was cut down from something that could have been so much better, that, you know, actually had a reason to use points?

“The Heroes of Undarin” could have been an amazing offering; in a way, daring to include it, is great. Players should be aware that there’s danger, that they may well be wiped out. Problems here range from the lack of environmental interaction points to the very unfortunate narrative issues bred from the introductory/denouement flavor texts and lack of information about the cause of the order. With a different framing, I am pretty sure that this wouldn’t have received the same level of disappointment, and instead elicited cheers for heroic blazes of glory. Another issue from a psychological perspective would be that the B-team, ultimately, doesn’t matter to the PLAYERS. While their A-team is attaining the White Axiom, a series of combats happen. Why not let the players play the process of attaining it, succumbing to the trauma, barely keeping it together as the B-team tries to keep them as safe as possible against the approaching onslaught? Switching characters would have added A LOT to this one. Again, scale. And what about making the performance of the doomed B-team actually have, you know, consequences regarding the whole plot??

“Red Flags” is easily the best stand-alone module herein: The characters are quirky, the metaplot components matter; we get actual roleplaying, the system showcases how it can blend interaction/exploration/roleplaying, etc. – This is a genuinely well-made and fun ADVENTURE I enjoyed. It showcases the strengths of the system, is fun to play, and it’s a tragedy that it shows up so late in the book. If this one had been included earlier, I bet more groups would have stuck with the playtest to the end. While it could have used more key-NPCs to interact with, it’s also the only adventure herein that doesn’t suffer from the scale-issue: It presents a comparably humble premise and delivers on it. It doesn’t feel like it needed a couple of pages to work as well as it should. (Though, handouts/artworks depicting the heist-relevant rooms would have been AWESOME…just sayin’…)

And then, there’d be “When the Stars Go Dark.” This is, in a way, the chapter of this module that highlights best a crucial component of what PF Playtest does infinitely better than the 1st edition. The finale, the rules presented for the White Axiom? They are AMAZING. I love the final encounter to bits. That being said, this chapter does have issues that look like compromises on…bingo…scale. Where is the read-aloud text, or better, artwork showing the revelations the PCs have?

This brings me to my main gripe with the finale, which has less to do with content, and more with art. That artwork of the star-spawn at the start of the module elicited a groan from me. It’s not creepy, it’s goofy. Also: Cthulhu et al are SO played out anno 2018/19, and the module frankly doesn’t need them, when it has malignant theorems and Ramlock himself, as great examples how you can provide fresh creatures that are lovecraftian, and not a rehash of the done-to-death mythos critters.

Ramlock gets an amazing artwork. The issue is, that the artwork fails to hit home regarding its impact, as we don’t have a scale reference. Reading the text, seeing his ginormous face approach, realizing how grossly mutated he is, how vastly swollen, is an AWESOME image that begs to have a visual representation. The artwork of Ramlock, sans scale, makes him, courtesy of the lack of…scale…look like a humanoid-sized monster and makes him miss the mark regarding his grotesque and epic proportions. He loses much of the impact.

Similarly, the veinstone pendulum, the whole set-up of the final battle – if anything ever warranted the talent of Paizo’s amazing artists, it’d be that final scene. While I would have loved to see a bit more exploration of Ramlock’s Hollow prior to the finale, this is, alongside “Red Flags”, by far the most structurally-sound adventure herein, and it really made me excited for the future. The “Ashen Man”-encounter is also nice, has a glorious artwork and is really cool – easily one of my favorite roleplaying interactions in the whole module. We need more of that type of Lovecraftian horror, and less simple quoting of mythos monsters to be hacked apart. The only failure in scale of this last module, would thus pertain the choice made in art-direction.

The conclusion of my dissection can be read here!


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

The second edition of the Fear Itself horror game clocks in at 178 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, leaving us with 173 pages of content. These include a two-page index and a 1-page character sheet.

After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the basics of the game, which is the first huge difference in comparison to the 1st edition. You see, where the first edition was intended for one-shots and as a kind of hack for Esoterrorists or similar GUMSHOE-based games, this edition is actually a full-blown stand-alone game. While this playstyle is still fully supported, the game now differentiates between angles from the get-go: The book notes that one-shot, mini-series and full-blown campaign are all possible, and also lists which sections in the book you should check out. Nice. The game is set in the same dark version of our world as Esoterrorists, meaning that the Outer Dark and its entities represent the primary antagonists. Books that feature this myth are tagged as “Ocean Game”, after the process by which one of the most formidable type of creature likes playing with mortals in a strange game, driving them insane.

Unlike Esoterrorists, this game does not assume that you have a benevolent organization or proper background to have at least sometimes a fighting chance against the Outer Dark – instead, Fear Itself focuses on more action-laden horror and a feeling of powerlessness; it’s less about uncovering full-blown wrongness of the universe, and more about survival, though themes can easily be mixed and matched. In one of my earlier reviews, I proposed kicking off a GUMSHOE-campaign with Fear Itself, and then, after the PCs have been recruited by the OV, using the Esoterrorist or Night’s Black Agents-rules (or a combination thereof!) for the next chapter of the campaign.

Fear Itself does not cast you in the role of heroes – the PCs are everyday people, and as such, there is a difference in focus and power-level that is reflected by the rules, but before we get into the details, let it be known that I do actually own the softcover of the game, as well as the pdf-version. I primarily based my review on the print copy.

Fear Itself deliberately restricts the use of combat/investigative experts and occult experts, which are considered to be out of the question unless this works in conjunction with your premise. Psychics are also restricted in a way – rules for them are provided, but they are risky. Unlike Esoterrorists, there is no OV guideline against these guys, so yeah – that’s a rather different angle. The Fear Itself game assumes the characters to be ordinary folks, and this angle is reflected in character creation: The number of players dictates the suggested number of build points per character, and there are capped abilities that are not available at character creation, unless you’re the group’s expert in the given field. Being an “expert” in a field means that you usually pay for your expert rank by some sort of drawback, which brings us to a crucial narrative angle that enriches the game and that can be rather fun: Risk factors. These represent, for example, a stern conviction in the scientific, a drug addiction, curiosity – all those behaviors that make characters die in horror movies. There are hard and soft risk factors, and resisting them requires a stability test, punishing the character for not giving in, while rewarding “risky” play and providing an incentive to creating tension.

But before we get to stability, let’s talk about abilities: Beyond a limit on aforementioned capped abilities, there are two survival abilities: Fleeing and Hiding. If your Fleeing is equal or higher than Athletics, you get 2 Fleeing for every build point spent, and the same holds true for Infiltration and Hiding. Infiltration and Athletics are universally better than Hiding and Fleeing, hence the discount – and this obviously enhances the emphasis on fleeing/hiding vs. direct combat. Concise lists of the abilities are provided – they are generally grouped in the categories Academic, Interpersonal, Technical, and General.

Stability, briefly noted before, is pretty self-explanatory – it’s the mental stamina and ability to resist sources of stress and mental breakdown. As such, the book guides you through the process of determining the cornerstones of your sources of stability. From neighbors to certain tasks to pets, these sources of stability are what keep you standing, and their development obviously provides means to attack the character; they are a catalyst for roleplaying, for saving them, for getting your character involved. The requirement, hardcoded into the game, ultimately, means that both GM and player have reasons to engage with the NPCs, be proactive in roleplaying.

Indeed, one of the things I very much enjoyed seeing, would be the salient advice provided for players, helping the game immensely. From embracing the flashbacks to roleplaying the mundane, to how to deal with being stuck in investigations, this section is really useful, particularly when dealing with players that are relatively new to GUMSHOE-based games.

A big difference to the previous iteration would be that we actually have the system explained in a concise manner: As you probably know about now, you can Spend points in your abilities to gain additional information – this game of resource management is crucial to how GUMSHOE works, and we have the process explained – and all abilities are noted with sample clues and benefits from the use of the abilities explained. This may sound obvious, it really helps GMing the game, and it makes it easier for players to know which abilities to choose. The ability-list has also been expanded, with new abilities getting a helpful “New”-tag, making conversion of older supplements easier. These new abilities also enhance the game in that they represent options that enhance the ability to play longer campaigns. Health now is just such an ability, changing that aspect.

Mechanically, the game has a simple resolution mechanic: If you have a point in ability, you can roll a six-sided die. The target difficulty numbers range from 2 to 8 (usually), and for each spend, you add +1 to the roll. The players do NOT know the target difficulty of the roll, just fyi. Other characters can piggyback on rolls – paying 1 point from the relevant ability, they can piggyback…but being unable to pay increases the difficulty by 2, which can be rather brutal. Contests follow an analogue mechanic, making that aspect simple to resolve as well. The narrative repercussions and how to handle the like are included.

When you exceed an opponent’s Hit Threshold, you may deal damage, rolling a die and applying modifier. Not having points in combat-relevant abilities locks you into the action you announce at the start of a round, decreases your damage, makes you go last and firearms have a chance of going wrong, big time. So yeah – if you have no combat training, you better be careful.., At 0 Health, you are Hurt; Starting at -6 Health, you are seriously wounded, and at -12 Health, you’re dead. Stability has similar thresholds, with effects like starting to close off, etc., despair, etc. Rules of thumb for different genres of horror are provided for your convenience, and indeed, particularly newer GMs and groups will definitely appreciate the vast array of pieces of advice contained within these pages.

Speaking of which: The GM gets a LOT of helpful advice herein, walking you through the process of designing a mystery, of how to use clues, determine core scenes, personalizing horror, when to use floating clues. A similar amount of guidance is provided not only for the process of designing a mystery, but also for the actual running of the mystery. Alternative rules like escape pools further enhance this section. Low and high-powered psychics, and some minor suggestions on running an all-psychic game may also be found within the pages of this massive book.

A couple of sample creatures that will mostly be familiar to Ocean Game veterans may be found, and the book contains stats for classics like slashers, werewolves, zombies, etc. Then, the book’s structure begins to change – as noted before, the game now has a broader perspective, and as such, features chapters for one-shots, mini-series and campaigns. For the one-shot, we get a sample adventure to accompany the general advice provided – it is a nice one, though the twist may be something the PCs see coming. The mini-series and campaign chapters have outlines provided instead of fully-fleshed out adventures – the latter two imho are more interesting, particularly the mini-series’ hook, but since that is very much a matter of taste, it won’t influence the final verdict.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a neat two-column b/w-standard, and the book features quite a bunch of nice b/w-artwork that ranges from inspired to solid. The softcover version has glossy paper, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Personally, I think that going hardcover for the book would have been nice.

The second edition of Robin D Laws and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Fear Itself-game is superior to the first in every way; no longer simply a hack to slap onto a GUMSHOE game, capable of being used as a stand-alone supplement, Fear Itself is a versatile investigative horror game that is deadly, interesting and has an amazing world; I am a huge fan of the whole Ocean game mythology, and frankly, I don’t understand why these games don’t get more love from the gaming public, particularly when compared to the Cthulhu-mythos. There is but one aspect of this book where it falls flat of the first edition: In the sample adventure/outline. Fear Itself’s first edition had a BRILLIANT sample adventure, and while the options herein are well-wrought, they don’t manage to attain that same level of pure horror. That being said, this book now presents all the tools you need to actually craft horror mysteries for your group – which you’ll have to do. As per the writing of this review, there only are two modules released for the game’s first edition. I will cover both of them, but yeah – much like the criminally underrated Esoterrorists, this is one of the Pelgrane Press games that’d deserve more love. If you’re looking for a change of pace from the tentacles, give this a shot – chances are, you’ll very much enjoy it! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This installment of the Legendary Class-redesigns/supplements clocks in at a mighty 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This book is, in its structure, akin to the phenomenal Legendary Rogues, in that it begins with a closer examination and expansion of the fighter class features, intended to provide means to differentiate the fighter class from other classes. As such, the book begins by taking a look at the advanced weapon training options introduced in the Weaponmaster’s Handbook – these allow for the replacement of the weapon training class feature at 9th, 13th and 17th level, and may alternatively be accessed via the Advanced Weapon Training feat, which fighters may take multiple times, but only once per 5 class levels attained. An updated version of said feat is included within, as the feat no longer requires a clause for the weapon master archetype. 19 such options have been included within this book, with the first of them allowing for weapon training bonus to be applied on combat maneuver checks with a chosen maneuver. There is also a means to enhance CMD, increase the save DC, if any, of effects caused by critical hits, quicker intimidation (with Dazzling Display synergy and means to combo it with e.g. Cornugon Smash), etc. Nice if you’re like me and enjoy, style-wise, some weapons that damage-die wise are less impressive: With focused weapon, you get a somewhat monk-ish damage progression for a weapon of your choice that you have Weapon Focus for, and scale its damage based on level, with the small table provided covering Small and Large size categories as well.

Cool one: These also include the option to expend an attacks of opportunity as an immediate action to add weapon training bonus to the saving throw, excluding ongoing magical effects; spell sundering and dispelling can also be found, and these two are not only mechanically great, they help make the fighter more viable and fun in high-magic contexts. Dexterity bonus to attack and Strength bonus to damage with thrown weapons as well as doubled weapon training bonus can be helpful as well – a helpful table sums these up, as well as their source, notes name-changes, if any, and we do get some guidance regarding implementation as well – big plus.

The next section pertains Weapon mastery feats, with Martial Focus as a specifically denoted gateway feat for non-fighters – and this feat is listed in the beginning, set apart with a shaded background. It may be a small thing, but seeing this one not hidden amidst a ton other feats made me smile from ear to ear – it’s really consumer-friendly and didactically-sensible presentation. Adaptive Counterstrike and Trade Blows, both with their own combat tricks, are included. Adaptive Counterstrike deserves special mention here: It’s the single best “analyze enemy”-type of feat I’ve seen in ages, and it doesn’t require wonky attack roll comparisons. Mechanically a boon for sore eyes. Trade Blows is similarly genius, making readied actions matter and allowing you to really harry targets. There may just be these two here, but quality trumps quantity any day of the week, and both of these are gamechangers. Speaking of making sense: If you’ve been adamant about playing by the book, you will have noticed weapon groups and associated lists being spread across different sources, including a blog post – well, fret not, for this book collects them in a sensible manner in one proper place. This is, once more, a thing that you may not immediately be stoked about, but the diligence that collected this list is something I genuinely applaud. And yes, there is a ginormous list that notes them all by source and whether or not they agree, allowing you to resolve conflicts of interpretation swiftly without having to resort to asking on the boards. This is amazing, very much the definition of going the extra mile.

You’ve probably seen it coming, so the presence of advanced armor training options probably is what you expected to see. However, what you probably did NOT expect to see, is that we begin with an analysis of the class feature, as the book highlights the issues and potentially rather limited appeal of this class feature. The ability also ranges in the power its component offers, and as such, the class feature is divided into two selectable pieces that no longer strand you with components of a class feature you simply can’t make use of. A total of 20 different armor training options may be found within this book, once more, like for the weapon training options, sporting the handy table that notes changes at one glance – for example for quick donning, or for unmoving, which now lets you select two different maneuvers. The section does, once more, come with an implementation guideline provided. Armor Focus, as an Armor Mastery feat, is included, and for your convenience, a massive table of such applicable feats, including sources, once more greatly helps navigating the breadth of options out there. At this point, the book has already a serious edge, as it acts as a brilliant reference book for fighter options.

From there on out, we move on to perseverance, which is the term employed for defensive resilience abilities; unless I’ve miscounted, there are 16 of these inside, and yes, e.g. bravery can be found here; this mean s that e.g. employing the content herein in conjunction with Michael Sayre’s Bravery Feats is very much possible. These features replace the armed bravery, and implementing them as the CRB bravery feature is an easy to grasp and super simple way of inciting players to remain in the fighter class instead of classing out of it. Additionally, the sequence in which these options are gained mirror the progression intervals of other fighter features, which generates a pleasant symmetry.
…don’t judge me, I can’t help it! I really like seeing symmetry and elegance in design, and this renders the fighter more pleasing from a rules-aesthetic point of view. Perhaps I’m weird, but in case you’re like me in that regard, I figured you’d like to know that. On the other side of things, while I never will become a huge fan of stalwart mettle (basically evasion for Fort- and Will-saves), it ultimately won’t break the game when made available to the fighter.

The next option array provided would be “Prowess” – these options represent the fighter’s meta-feats, which enhance combat feats, provide skill-based options, etc. – as the book correctly notices, there is a fine line between prowess and advanced weapon training options – but thankfully, the table does list such options with an asterisk, noting that they may be taken as either. It’s nice to see that the book doesn’t simply leave that aspect up to the GM and provides apt guidance. 21 such options are included for your convenience, and allow the fighter to gain skills and no longer be the dumb and useless brute outside of combat; there is an option for proficiency in an entire weapon group, a means for allies to share the fighter’s teamwork feats and options that render Style feat use more viable: Style Training lets you always be in one style and enter them as a free action, and Style Mastery lets you use more than one style feat simultaneously. The implementation of these options is explained analogue to the previous option categories – 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter are suggested, and detailed corner case rulings prevent confusion with e.g. Barroom Brawler. And yes, if you’ve always been irked by the fighter’s bad saves, there is an easy to implement optional rule/variant here. And while I noticed this before, you have probably guessed it at this point – this massive tome of fighter tweaks also provides the means to make the fighter less feat-starved.

Another issue that many a player has encountered, would be the requirement to invest in tertiary ability scores to meet the prerequisites of certain feats, and, you guessed it, the book does offer solutions for this, and contextualizes the fighter anno 2018 with other classes and their means to waive certain prerequisites and the like. I absolutely ADORE the concept of latent feats: Feats you’ve retrained, but which still count for the purpose of prerequisites. At 4th level, this suggested class feature is perfectly placed to avoid dipping-abuse and regarding when, during a fighter’s career, feats like Mobility or Dodge start becoming dead weight. Once more, a potential issue of the fighter can be resolved in a smooth and elegant way. (And no, they can’t be abused.)

Fighter-specific feats get their own table, with (Greater) penetrating Strike and Clustered Shots having their effects listed in a handy table – and once more, the reference table can be worth its weight in gold when planning your fighter. The book goes beyond that, retuning e.g. the gloves of dueling to work smoothly in conjunction with the massive option array presented. There are alternate rules here that render fighters still somewhat capable when employing nonproficient weapons, options that fortify weapons gripped by these martial masters, not dropping held weapons when panicked or stunned…nice. As an aside: One of my last campaign’s PCs, a super-high-powered gladiator-type, ALWAYS managed to fail saves versus dragons, losing multiple unique magic weapons this way, so yeah, these may not look like much, but they certainly do matter! The book then proceeds to present optional alternate rules for high-level fighters, like moving up to his speed before or after a full attack (making the fighter less static), not automatically missing on a natural 1, 1/round treating an attack roll as a 10 at 19th level…yeah.

So far, so good – a colossal grab-bag of fighter options to customize the class. Beyond that, we have the Legendary Fighter, who gets d10 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with all simple and martial weapons as well as armor and shields, including tower shields, full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. 1st level and every even levels thereafter net a bonus feat, and the fighter can choose 4 skills from a list to be added to the list of class skills, representing the skill-upgrade design paradigm mentioned before. The legendary fighter also takes the save-issue into account: He gets sharp reflexes, which nets +1 to Reflex saves, which further improves by +1 at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets +1 to Will saves, which increases by another +1 at 10th level. The legendary fighter treats his ability scores as +1/2 class level higher for the purpose of meeting feat prerequisites starting at 2nd level, and 3rd level adds +1/3 class level to BAB for the purposes of prerequisites, capping at +5. Also at 3rd level, we have an advanced weapon training, with an additional one gained at 7th, 11th and 15th level. Also at 3rd level, the fighter may don the more problematic heavy armors sans aid and gains advanced armor training options at 5th, 9th and 13th level. Also at third level, we have a +1 bonus to atk and damage with all proficient weapons, and to combat maneuver checks executed with said weaponry and to CMD versus weapon targeting maneuvers. The bonus increases by +1 at 7th, 11th and 15th level.

4th level implements aforementioned feat-retraining options, including the genius latent feats engine, and also introduces prowess options. Proper weapon grip, aforementioned high-level skirmishing option – at this point you have noticed it, right? Yep, this class is basically the result of implementing all those modular class features in a concise manner. And here is where the book once more walks the extra mile that separates a good or very good book from an excellent one – it starts talking about archetype use in conjunction with the legendary fighter, providing concise and easy to grasp guidelines to use them in conjunction with the class, including how to deal with underpowered archetypes, with redundant abilities, etc. And guess what: Yes, we do get a HUGE table of archetypes, with sources listed and modifications noted. Want to play a pack mule legendary fighter? Just check the table. A.W.E.S.O.M.E.!

If your system mastery at this point is rather pronounced, you’ll know that e.g. armor master, lore warden, unbreakable or weapon master require some more love, right? Well, guess what: This book covers them in detail. Oh, and the pdf offers “simple” archetypes – these present the last tools you need to make this engine slot in seamlessly with pretty much anything: Exotic weapon wielders, living weapons, stamina adherents, spirit warriors – ALL ARE COVERED.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard, with most artworks being classics that fans of Legendary Games will be familiar with. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I won’t lie, I did not really look forward to reviewing this fighter-rebuild. I have read more than my share of them, and e.g. Alexander Augunas’ Unchained Fighter sated my thirst for a Stamina-bar-based fighter rather aptly.

Here’s the thing: Matt Goodall’s Legendary Fighter does not seek to become a competition for that class, and they actually work rather smoothly in the same campaign, offering different playing experiences.

More than just a class, though, this is basically the “Teach you how to make the fighter awesome”-book. Instead of presuming to be aware of all realities of tables out there, this book takes the ultimate high-road: It presents awesome rules, and explains the consequences of their implementation, the design rationale behind them, allowing the customer to make informed decisions regarding the implementation of all modified class features herein. This is a GIGANTIC plus, and in an ideal world, would be the standard.
Let’s say you’re playing a Greyhawk-like campaign, with an emphasis of gritty low magic, and you’re actually happy with how the fighter works – for the most part. Your group doesn’t need too much tactical finesse and doesn’t feature much minmaxing, but the skill situation sucks, and so does the save stuff. Great, you can read this book, make an informed decision and just include these components! On the other side of the spectrum, veteran number-crunchers and connoisseurs of diverse options finally get a fighter class that is on par with more recent releases, that has a vast plethora of unique tools at its disposal, and that is rewarding and versatile to play. From latent feats to the small details, this oozes care and a genuine love for the fighter, one that translates into a master-class supplement.

Oh, a supplement that also represents a massive reference tome that helps you navigate the intricacies of PFRPG. From magic items to archetypes, this does not simply slam down great content – it provides the content, sure. But it also explains in a didactically-sensible manner why and how these design decisions have been made. This book, in a way, is a guideline for you to emancipate, in the Kantian sense, the fighter class, making it what YOU think it should be. Oh, and even if design and tinkering are not things that catch your interest, guess what – the Legendary Fighter, as the whole-deal comfort package has you covered.

This is a master-class book, even when looked at within the context of this series’ exceedingly high standards. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, and, you’ve probably seen it coming, this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018. Don’t wait – finally make the fighter class that fits your game!

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

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

After a brief introduction, we begin the new weapon fusions. There are 4 new level 5 weapon fusions included: Boomerang does what it says on the tin, may only be applied to thrown weapons, and makes a thrown weapon return to you your hand one round after it is thrown; this is akin to returning, save that you get a second attack roll at the original value on a missed one. Conductive makes a weapon’s electric energy charge an opponent’s armor. A target thus hit takes a -1 penalty to AC and on Reflex saves and other effects that inflict electricity damage until the start of your next turn. If you miss with an attack, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to make the target takes this penalty, even though you missed. Only shock weapons and those with the shock weapon fusion may benefit from this one.

Lesser dazzling weapons dazzle a targeted creature after the attack is resolved, regardless of whether or not the attack hit. You only dazzle one creature per attack. Compared to that, the level 9 greater dazzling fusion can dazzle all creatures targeted by the attack. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The final level 5 fusion would be pyrotechnic, which may not be added to cryo weapons. 1/day, when you attack a target within 5 ft. of a solid surface, you may activate this fusion as a reaction to create a conflagration that engulfs a 5-foot line from your space to the nearest 5-ft.-square occupied by the attack’s target. This may be activated even if you miss, and creatures and flammable objects in the line take 1d4 fire damage, while creatures moving into or through it take 1d6 fire damage or gain the burning condition. Slightly odd verbiage/damage dice distribution there, but nothing that hampers the fusion.

The pdf contains 3 new level 6 fusions: Grazing (not properly italicized in the text) makes the target take 1 point of damage per weapon damage die, even if you miss. No bonuses apply, and the fusion does account for save-based weapons. However, it does not specify the damage type specifics of multi-damage type weapons. Does the wielder get to choose which damage type to inflict? Half-half? (And yes, I am aware that I am nitpicking here, chalk it up to two fusions below, which are simply GENIUS…you’ll see…) Relentless allows you to spend 1 Resolve Point upon missing a target to make that count as harrying fire, but not if the total result of the attack roll was below 15. This may only be applied to ranged weapons that require an attack roll, and not to weapons with the explode quality. Seeding creates plant-based difficult terrain, and requires kinetic damage-inflicting weaponry. This made me flash back to Grim Fandango so hard…

We also have two level 7 fusions: Ultrasonic may only be applied to sonic weapons, and lets you 1/day affect a target and all within 10 ft. of the target, affecting all with a deafening blast on a failed Fort-save. This does work with line/explode/automatic weapons and comes with proper verbiage for those cases. Slippery may only be applied to cryo weapons with the frost fusion and allows you to go full-blown Mister Freeze, creating icy difficult terrain. Cool!!

The Star Log contains 4 level 8 weapon fusions: Erupting may be used with unwieldy weapons, but requires that the weapon has the blast special quality. When attempting a cone attack, you may expend additional ammo or charges equal to weapon usage to sustain the attack until the start of your next turn. You can’t damage a single target more than once per round, but you CAN sustain the blast and e.g. cover the retreat of your allies/hold targets in check. This is genius and absolutely amazing. Love it. This btw. also applies to the level 11 lingering fusion, which instead makes explosions linger. These two imho warrant getting this pdf all on their own. They are AWESOME.

Thought-seeking can only be applied to damage dealing weaponry, and lets you roll twice miss chance when attacking intelligent targets that have concealment. If you miss, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to have the ammo instead veer towards a critter with at least Intelligence 1 within reach or first range increment, which makes the target take 1 point of damage per weapon damage die on a failed Reflex save, but here the usual bonuses to damage apply. Once more, though, the damage type scenario could be a bit clearer for multi-damage type’d weaponry. Nanite repair lets the weapon repair itself for 1 Hit Point per round, +1 for every 5 item levels.

The final level 8 fusion would be lesser lock-on, which lets you designate a creature within 30 ft. you’re aware of; until the star of your next turn, you get a +1 enhancement bonus to atk vs. the designated target. The fusion is treated as a computer with half the item level’s tier and may be affected by Computers. Greater lock-on (level 10 fusion, btw.) erroneously refers to lesser dazzling instead of lesser lock-on, and maintains the bonus until the end of your next turn instead.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting re very good on a rules-language level, and slightly less impressive than that on a formal level. While the hiccups herein are not game-breakers, they are there. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a nice artwork by Jacob Blackmon. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

David N. Ross’ weapon fusions here are complex, precise, make pricing-wise sense, and have two true gems – the erupting and lingering fusions are extremely iconic: Holding back the xenomorphs with flamethrowers, making off while the plasma-cloud hisses in the air – these two fusions are exciting and creative and warrant my seal of approval. Why? Because these two fusions made me immediately come up with a plethora of cool encounter scenes and adventure angles, and that is awesome. That being said, there are a few minor snafus here, and as such, my final verdict can’t exceed 4.5 stars, though I’ll still round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This installment of the Occult Skill Guide-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we begin with the glossary for rituals – yes, this means that this is a full stand-alone supplement that doesn’t require the original rituals-supplements released in this series.

Rituals have three basic ritual components: The ceremony, which denotes the physical actions required to perform the ritual; the lore, which represents the history and information, and the seal – an occult sign that must be drawn to cast the ritual. Some rituals require a focus, and item that isn’t destroyed upon the ritual being cast. The characters engaging in a ritual are known as primary ritualist and secondary ritualist(s). Some rituals have additional requirements: Items consumed by the ritual are called “reagents”; traits the ritualists must shape/have are called “Characteristics”, and creatures offered as payment are called “Sacrifice” – this doesn’t mean that they are killed, though that may well be the case. Failure to perform a ritual properly can have dire consequences, and thus, this pdf does mention the appropriate failure consequences. Of course, success also has an effect.

A ritual has a key skill, and in order to learn a ritual, you have to have 3 the ritual’s level in skill ranks in the key skill, with the skill usually, but not always, being Computers, Engineering, Mysticism. The pdf also provides rules for learning rituals, and the pdf fully explains the process of performing a ritual in a step-by-step process that is easy to grasp. Since I already explained this in a previous review, I’ll just note that the book thus contains all the rules you require to make more rituals. The pdf even provides an explanation model of why rituals work that you can adopt or ignore – nice! (There is a minor formatting hiccup (a “1.”) in the Ceremony-section of the sample ritual, but that’s cosmetic only.)

All right, so that out of the way, let us check out the ritual, which would be clone creation. This is designated as a level 5 ritual, with the school necromancy and the descriptor [mageologic]. (Ritual descriptors also denote the key skilsl – mageologic rituals either use Life Science or Physical Science as key skill.). The ritual has a casting time of 5 hours, and requires a crystal formed of pure positive energy as a Focus. As far as reagents are concerned, an artificial uterus and a biochain variant android soul storage unit are required. Beyond that, raw elemental compounds, a sample genetic material and a proper laboratory would be required. Additionally, a mk 3 mnemonic editor is needed. The total cost sans focus of these reagents amount to 60,000 credits, excluding the editor. By the way: You REALLY don’t want to fail this ritual: At 4d3 temporary negative levels, 2d6 ability points damage to ALL scores and 13d20 acid damage, this will probably kill you off…

Anyway, let’s talk about the ceremony: The seal is drawn first, and corresponds to the clone to be created, which will either be a replica or a vessel; then, the growth chamber is assembled, whereafter the fertilization process commences. The clone reconstruction program is up next, and then the mnemonic editor is up next. Skill-wise, we have a lot of Life Science, with some steps requiring Computers and Mysticism checks, and DCs at 39 or 44.

Now, as for success criteria: Replicas are clones with a soul, including artificially memories that are based on telepathic bonds or analogue transfer processes, though the replica can develop independently. Vessels, on the other hand, are basically backup bodies, allowing for excellent means for the villains to return from the dead, for PCs to have an extra life or the like. And yes, the resurrection penalties are still retained. The costs of creating newborn clones and maturing them are covered, and the failure can result in the other clone type, as well as a chance for the primary ritualist to be memory wiped and spat out as an infant version of the clone sans memories or class features. This is a pretty cool way to kick off a campaign – or resume it after a TPK…just sayin’.

The pdf then proceeds to provide a rather cool legend, as well as 3 different sample encounter-suggestions for you to further jumpstart the creative processes.

Beyond that, the pdf also presents the massive “Do-it-yourself”-ritual creation engine that walks you, step by step, through the process of crafting your own rituals, which is a pretty amazing thing, and really easy to grasp, highlighting the author’s teaching experience.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, excellent on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard, and the pdf contains a bunch of pretty awesome full-color artworks in Jacob Blackmon’s signature style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas’ cloning ritual is an awesome offering: The supplement ultimately allows you to salvage a campaign from utter disaster and a TPK; it can allow you to change direction, Mass Effect 2-style. It can allow you to have your favorite villain return from the dead, or it can offer a great means to start a campaign, as the PCs try to reclaim their identities after a botched ritual, potentially trying to reclaim their (probably horrible!) memories! The pdf offers, thus, a ton of excellent fuel for creative GMs to take the game in new directions. Heck, you could play a Paranoia-style scenario, or provide a means to play a hyper-deadly meatgrinder. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Highly recommended.

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This installment of Mythic Feat-upgrades clocks in at 32 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 23 pages of content, though, as always, for Legendary Games, there is a ton of text per page.

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue at the request of my patreons.

Organization-wise, this pdf starts off strong, offering feat-lists in alphabetical order, and then provide a list of feats organized by type, providing for all organization-paradigms you may prefer – big plus. The first list is even internally hyperlinked, allowing for comfortable navigation of the electronic iteration of this pdf.

As always, this book does something I really respect: It takes the feats from one of Paizo’s big hardcovers, here, obviously, Ultimate Wilderness, and provides mythic iterations – for ALL OF THEM. As such, covering each and every feat would obviously bloat this review beyond any usefulness, so let’s start by providing an overview and some samples from within, shall we?

The first feat within is Ambush Awareness, and the mythic iteration allows you to expend a mythic power when benefiting from Ambush Awareness to take a single action instead of a total defense action. Animal Call allows you to add your mythic tier to Bluff checks (not properly capitalized; there are quite a few instances of skills not properly capitalized; btw. not the only feat where a skill hasn’t been properly capitalized herein), and if you succeed, you may call ALL animals within 100 ft. of the type you called, which is pretty epic. Design paradigm-wise, we do have a couple of instances, where the use of mythic power allows for numerical escalation – Animal Ferocity allows for the addition of a +5 circumstance bonus to attack rolls, for example, and Beast Hunter would be another nice example of this design paradigm. The Ferocious feats to upgrade animal companions allow for the addition of mythic tier to the Bluff skills made to feint or intimidate checks made to demoralize, and both allow for the use of these as a swift action; the demoralize-based, in a nice catch, also allows for Anatagonize use in conjunction with this.

With the proper mythic Verdant Spell, you can affect plant creatures and sentient creatures at once, and when specifically targeting only plants, you penalize Will saves for spell level rounds. Additionally, mythic power allows for the spontaneous use of metamagic. Voice of Beasts’ mythic iteration nets you a non-dispellable supernatural speak with animals. With Boon Companion’s mythic iteration, you can use the full character level as druid level to determine animal companion/familiar abilities, and Command Animals or Command Plants follow a similar design paradigm. Branch Pounce’s upgrade allows you to mitigate the consequences of missing the attack, and similarly, Deep Diver helps you reduce falling damage when diving, and also doubles your range of vision while underwater, which is a cool touch. Mythic power can fortify you against the rigors of crushing pressure as well. With the Bristling combat maneuver feats, you can increase damage output by tier, and has options to use mythic power for more damaging assaults.

Really interesting from a tactical perspective – Crashing Wave Style’s upgrade makes movement taken as part of drag/reposition not count against the amount of movement per round, with mythic power as a means to increase the number of squares. Similarly, Flinging Charge allows you to choose to take the -5 penalty on the ranged attack made as part of the charge instead of the melee attack. Additionally,, when hitting the target of the charge with the ranged attack, you deny the target Dexterity bonus to AC for the melee attack to follow. Now, personally, I do not think that this should allow, as written herein, for a 3/day regaining of mythic power when confirming a critical hit with the ranged attack, as this can theoretically allow you to exceed the standard cap.

Clinging Climber may be used as a swift action, even as a free action with mythic power expenditure. The complex Eidolon Mount upgrade allows you to maintain the eidolon’s size if it’s more than one size category larger than you. Energized Wild Shape’s mythic version increases energy resistance, and also nets a minor retributive energy when struck by unarmed strikes, etc. Exotic Heritage allows you to take 10 or 20 while threatened with the skill chosen for the base feat, and when using the feat to gain the benefits of Eldritch Heritage, the character also gets the 3rd-level bloodline power, at character level-2. Group Shared Spell allows you to cast targets with a target of “you” on any character that has this feat, with mythic power even at close range – and yes, this is basically one of the few teamwork feats that is really potent, and one that your allies WILL want to invest the feat in!

Obviously, we also cover the Improved/Greater Hunter’s Bond, Spring Attack, etc. feat-upgrades, and e.g. the Indomitable Mountain Style chain is also nice. Jaguar Pounce’s mythic iteration allows you to combine the benefits with Improved Critical, and charge/Spring Attack allows you to inflict tier-governed additional damage: I really enjoyed the power-upgrades for Natural Poison Harvester and Antitoxin. Out of the Sun allows you to blind targets, and Reflexive Interception’s mythic feat nets the character evasion (and its improved version), whether the companion succeeds on the save or not. Shifter’s Edge allows for the threat range increase via mythic power for 1 minute, and increases Shifter’s Edge bonus damage by adding mythic tier to class level to determine damage. Totemic Discipline nets uncanny dodge or the upgraded iteration, and barbarian level for the totemic feats is equal to character level.

The Wilding feat chain also deserves mentioning, as we for example have mythic wild empathy here, immediate action ending of mind-affecting effects, becoming confused instead.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are between good and very good on a formal level – the glitches I found were mostly aesthetic in nature. Rules language-wise, this is as refined and precise as we’ve come to expect from Legendary Games at this point. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports quite an array of full-color artworks, which will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf is internally hyperlinked, and the pdf comes properly bookmarked for your convenience.

Alex Riggs, Margherita Tramontano, Jonathan H. Keith, Jeff Lee – you have my utmost respect. Designing books like this can be WORK, and honestly, it’s one thing I personally wouldn’t want to do. For that alone, this series has to be applauded. The work that goes into these mythic feat books is palpable. Now, I am a bit spoiled by now – this particular iteration does go a bit more into the direction of depth regarding the escalation of numbers, rather than providing breadth of new options, though it should be noted that there are plenty of options herein that do represent tactical gamechangers. All in all, this renders the book a great, if not perfect upgrade of feats, one definitely worth getting if you’re using Ultimate Wilderness, and a must-have when using Ultimate Wilderness in conjunction with Mythic Adventures – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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This installment of the Spheres Apocrypha-series clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with two pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The pdf kicks off with 7 basic talents, one of which, Solar Strike, is untagged: When you hit a creature with an attack, you can make it glow as a swift action, or glow brightly at the cost of 1 spell point. It should be noted that the pdf does miss the proper glow formatting, which can makes the rules-language somewhat obtuse. The pdf also includes a (lens) talent, the Halo Effect, which nets a scaling bonus to Bluff and Diplomacy (and optionally to Performance as well. The skills are not properly capitalized.

The remaining 5 talents all have the (light) tag. Fenestrate lets you create a bright light that makes everything and everyone in the area translucent enough to see through. Objects that grant cover still grant concealment, but Stealth is seriously impeded. Interesting one, though I’d be interested to know whether this means that you can have line of sight through creatures or not – a pretty crucial aspect, as the talent seems to imply so, but the change this would bring for magic would be pretty vast, so I’m not sure. Inner Sun lets you grant a creature you made glow brightly a weapon of light that may be any melee weapon you’re proficient with, with its damage being scaling fire damage. The blade of light can’t hurt translucent targets and may have interesting interactions with reflective creatures. Precious lets you make an item glow – all that see it will then try to get it and admire it, basically turning Gollum on a failed Will-save. This will not make them suicidal or stupid, but it does affect allies. The effect is properly codified and allows for shaking off, but ONLY initially and when admiring it. Shouldn’t this have Hypnotic Pattern as a prerequisite?

Revelation allows you to bestow a light of a text, allowing for the full lecture of the material, including erased text. This can also reveal hidden text and meaning, and even bypass magical protections if you succeed at your Magic Skill Check. Shining Arsenal makes your weapons inflict full damage on incorporeal targets, and fortifies armor and shields aglow to provide full defense against such targets, and you choose a single metal or material – the light mimics this material for the purposes of vulnerabilities, making e.g. cold iron or silver valid choices. Since the glowing items don’t actually get the property, adamantine wouldn’t help.

The pdf also contains 3 new feats: Afterglow lets you add a glow to positive energy ability applicants; Crimson Flash lets you, as a swift action, spend a spell point to expel a blast that only one ally sees who hasn’t yet acted. The ally may act on your initiative count instead of their own. Lightshow, finally, combos inspiring song with glow, including glow effects, but excluding ones that require targets to glow brightly.

Conclusion:
Editing is good on a formal and rules-language level, but suffers from the lack of quality control regarding formatting – the pdf has a surprising amount of formatting oversights for its brevity, and does not consistently apply the formatting conventions established for the Light sphere, which hurts the integrity of the rules somewhat. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard. I’ll never be a fan of yellow headers for the Light sphere; they are strenuous to read. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Adam Meyers knows what he’s doing, and the Light material herein is, for the most part, interesting. There is, though, as a whole, a sense of this one being rushed, with a ton of formatting hiccups for such a short file, more than necessary. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price-point.

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This Ship-pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The light cruiser is the workhorse of the Katar fleet and clocks in as a tier 6 destroyer, which comes with medium 100 shields, mk 4 armor and defenses, and an Arcus Max power core. Thruster-wise, we have L6 and a basic drift engine, and the systems are powered by a mk1 trinode computer, and the vessel offers good crew quarters and has basic medium-range sensors. The light cruiser has 3 cargo holds, and also uses the focus on social skills that Katar crew seem to have. The Piloting skill, at +19, is pretty damn high, but in comparison, the crew has less to offer regarding Engineering, as here, we only have +13.

Weaponry-wise, we have heavy laser cannons and torpedo launchers on the front, flak throwers port and starboard, and light torpedo launchers on the aft, and light particle beams for the turrets. Unless I’ve miscalculated, the ship should btw. be using its full assortment of BP available – it does have PU left, but yeah. Nice. Shields btw. are, as with other katar-vessels, slightly focused on front and back. The pdf coems with a Computers-table to know information about it. The table features a minor typo and erroneously refers to the Fast Attack vessel in the header in a cut-copy-paste remnant

As always, we get a fully filled-out starship sheet version of the ship ready for your perusal, and a one-page full-color handout style version of the ship’s great artwork. We also have paper-standing minis of the ship, and the pdf offers a fully depicted, great map of the ship, which makes sense regarding room placement, offers a katar garden, cold storage, gravity reactor, etc.

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 pdf comes with a great artwork of the vessel, and the cartography for the vessel in full-color is excellent. The pdf doesn’t have bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver a cool workhorse army vessel that does a good job. It doesn’t feel over-engineered and functional, and thus manages to capture rather well the intended flavor. All in all, this is a good vessel, well worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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