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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This pdf 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!

One note: This is an early offering of Lost Spheres Publishing, who went under my radar for far too long. The class was originally published way back in 2013, so that’s something to bear in mind.

All right, so, the echo gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, and may choose 8 skills to be the class skills of the class. (This *may* have been the first class to do this!) The echo has a ¾ BAB-progression, as well as good Reflex and Will-saves, and the echo is proficient with simple weapons. Proficiency, however, is covered by the mirror memory class feature: An echo is proficient in the use of any armor, weapon or shield they have seen used in the last 24 hours. Additionally, echoes may activate any magic or psionic item they have seen activated in the last 24 hours, using class level as manifester/caster level, when relevant.

An echo begins play with a pool of reflections equal to 3 + echo class level. As long as they have at least one reflection left, they may maintain a psionic focus as though they had a power point reserve (good catch there!) and reflections are replenished after 8 hours of rest.

Reflections may be used in a variety of ways: An echo may spend a reflection as a free action to echo a feat, which, for one round, exchanges a feat for another that they have seen used within the last Charisma modifier rounds. Potential problem here: The prerequisite angle. RAW, the echo could gain access to feats that build upon others, but which aren’t necessarily used (such as in some of the more complex feat chains) this way. Depending on how you run your game, this may be considered to be a bug or a feature. The second use is echo familiarity, which lets the echo, for one round, gain a +2 circumstance bonus to a skull they’ve seen used. If the echo uses this ability to replicate a non-class skill, they add Charisma modifier to the roll. This is interesting, in that it may make the echo mirroring a skill actually better than the echo learning one. Regarding skills, btw.: 3rd level nets remembrance, which lets them choose a skill they used the base echo familiarity (see below) on; this skill is permanently added to the list of class skills, and another is gained at every odd level.

Now, Lost Spheres Publishing has codified power sources for magic in the Transcendent 10-series, introducing the notion of arcane, divine, entropic, temporal, psionic and primal power-sources, and the pdf does recap the basic information there. At 1st level, an echo chooses one such source of power. For one reflection, the echo can then replicate a single spell or power with that source that they witnessed within the past round, as a standard action. This fixed action economy can yield some strange results, and the ability suddenly speaks of reflection points, when previously, there was no “point” mentioned, but the ability thankfully does have limiters: The spell or power must have an effective level equal to no more than half the Echo’s level rounded up. Such mirrored spells or powers are resolved as spell-like or psi-like abilities at the caster or manifester level of the original caster/manifester or the echo, whichever is lower. Minor nitpick: PFRPG doesn’t have effective caster levels. Ignore that word. DCs are the originals, or 10 + the effect’s level + the echo’s Charisma modifier, whichever is lower. Kudos: This does NOT allow you to echo costly tricks – effects with material components of 100 gp + are exempt.

At 2nd level, the echo gains a deeper reflection, chosen from a list of 5: Cascade allows you to treat your own mirror power as a valid target for your own mirror power, allowing you to loop one action you mirrored. The deeper reflection may be taken additional times, with additional uses allowing you to mirror yourself anew. If you played Final fantasy VII back in the day, and remember the easy strategy to defeat Emerald Weapon, mimicking quadruple-summoned knights of the round, then mimic this with the mimic material, then you’ll know how this works: Each choice of cascade basically nets you one additional star in your mimic material. (If you’re one of the nerds who, like me, puzzled out how to kill the weapons before the advent of GameFAQs, consider yourself high-five’d!)

Facet of power, as a choice, allows you to choose another power-source. Depth of Reflection increases the echo’s level by 1 for the purpose of determining which spells and powers may be replicated. Memory of power lets you select one spell or power the echo was personally affected by that is one level lower than the maximum level the echo can currently mimic. The echo is always considered to be capable of using that one. Finally, twin strikes lets the echo, when using a weapon of the same type as a target within Close range, resolve attacks with the target’s base attack bonus, provided the attacks are made within 1 round of witnessing the attack. (If you have Lasting Impression, which is gained at 5th level), you may do so for a number of rounds equal to twice that extended duration.

Lasting Impression extends the duration of the timeframe wherein an echo can mimic a power by 1 round, and the ability extends the timeframe further at 9th, 13th, 17th and 19th level. (This means that, e.g. twin strikes of an echo of 14th level would last for 6 rounds, as the lasting impression extension is equal to 3 rounds for spell/power-mimicking.)

Starting at 10th level, the class gets their advanced talents of sorts, the so-called dark reflections, which may be chosen instead of deeper reflections. One of these allows for the use of mirror power as a counterspell mechanic based on opposed caster level check. The second one allows you to choose one creature type, and then nets you the option to go blue mage and mirror supernatural abilities of the creature type, with class level equal to CR-2 being the maximum that prevents really ugly cheesy exploits. Such SUs must be triggered as a standard action, providing another important anti-abuse caveat. Another dark reflection allows for the echo DC to be substituted, and for the class to use its own caster/manifester level, if higher. At 10th level, this is a well-.situated place for an ability/tweak to the core mechanics of the class. There is also a really complex counterecho-based ability that can be triggered as an immediate action, and that lets you mirror power after a counterecho. It misses a spell italicization, though, and only works if you have counterecho, so it should probably specify that as a prerequisite. Still, nice one! Another one nets the echo a shadow reflection pool equal to Charisma modifier that may only be used to power dark reflections. One of the dark reflections builds on this, and allows the echo to use a shadow reflection powered by that pool and a regular reflection in the same round. This allows for the use of two standard action reflections, though the use of the two does render this a full-round action. (Here, the prerequisite is properly noted) There is a talent that allows the change of the source of power to anther (with the GM having the final say).

At 19th level (not properly noted in the ability’s write-up), the echo gains Hall of Echoes. Or Hall of Reflections, as the class table calls it in an inconsistency. 1/day, the echo may, as a free action, select an effect valid for mirror power with a single target. For 2 reflections, this is resolved on ALL targets within Close range. No, they can’t choose to exclude friends or foes. The capstone lets the class, 1/day spend a reflection to perfectly replicate another character’s full round worth of actions, including spells, attacks, and the ability even takes items into account. The targets, suffice to say, may be designated by the echo.

The pdf also includes 8 different feats: Extra Reflection nets you +2 reflections; Deeper Reflection and Darker Reflection net you an additional deeper or darker reflection, respectively. Absorb Power lets you, as a standard action, spend a reflection to make a touch attack against a character that is eligible for your mirror power base ability. The target gets a Will-save (formatting here is a bit rough, but only aesthetically). On a success, the echo may act as though the target had just activated an eligible spell or power for purposes of the echo’s mirroring. On a failure, the target instead loses access to the spell or power for a number of rounds equal to the echo’s Charisma modifier, during which the echo may mirror it! COOL! Echo item requires 3 ranks in “UMD” – that should read Use Magic Device, and it lets you duplicate powers and spells generated by items, provided you have access to the power source and a facsimile. To duplicate a necklace’s power, a noose or string around the neck, for example. It’s a small touch, but the class has a couple of them, and they make the class feel more…alive? Anyways, Form of Echoes is a crossover feat for Rite Publishing’s Taskshaper. (Nice!)

The pdf also contains two different psionic zone feats: Reflective Resonance creates a 30-foot-zone, which nets psionic characters in the zone a circumstance bonus to ML equal to the number of rounds you have echoed one of their powers. This lasts for up to Charisma bonus rounds, and can be VERY brutal – but enemies do gain this benefit as well… Shattered Resistance does do the same for spells sourced from the same power source.

The pdf offers no favored class options or the like.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting on a formal level are a bit rough: There are a couple of aesthetic hiccups, nonstandard formatting stuff, etc. On a rules-language level, though? MUCH better than I dared to hope considering the high-level complexity of the subject matter. With a few minor snafus like an inconsistency in an ability name or a missing prerequisite, this class works smoothly. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The class has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

And sometimes, being a reviewer and somewhat OCD is awesome. When I was introduced to Lost Spheres Publishing, I duly started getting their material, and began working on it, as I’m wont to, from the back to the front of the catalog, also to get an idea of the evolution of the design. The Transcendent 10-series was, in quite a few instances, a positive surprise for me, but also sported quite a few rough ones. Considering the complexity of the concept of mimicking stuff, and the age of the class, I frankly expected this one to…well, let’s be frank…suck.

Now let me state this clearly: The rules language isn’t always perfect; it has a couple of remnant 3.X-isms, some formatting’s a bit off…but know what? I, for once, found that I don’t really care all that much. Why? Because this class has more ambition than 95% of hybrid classes released for PFRPG COMBINED. It takes a concept that is WIDE OPEN, that just begs to slap together an ill-conceived or too limited interpretation – and genuinely rocks it. The limitations imposed on the echo’s impressive flexibility, the clear intention of being a novel playing experience, the focus of the class – all of that is impressive as heck. This has the blend of ambition, vision, and some would claim madness, that characterizes truly novel and stand-out concepts, and while the formatting is not perfect, it does have the design-chops to make it actually WORK. Rated purely on a formal level, this would be, at best, a 3-star file; however, there is more to a RPG-product than formal criteria…and the functionality of this class, its GUTS, its AMBITION? They are AMAZING. As a person, I thoroughly love this class.

As a reviewer, I can’t rate this as highly as I’d like to. The supplemental material is barebones, and the class could have used a broader talent selection…but it is my honest belief that this hidden gem still holds up to this date! If you’re comfortable ignoring e.g. an “effective” here and there and want to see a great take on the mimic class concept, if you’re looking for something radically different, then this little gem delivers, big time. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. Oh, and yes, this gets my seal of approval. If you’re willing to look past a few cosmetic blemishes, you’ll be rewarded with a truly unique experience here.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

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

As always, we begin this supplement with a brief contextualization of the race in question within the Xa-Osoro system, before diving into the information on the rougarous, who btw. also hail from the lost world of Azan, destroyed in the cataclysm of the Regicide. Interesting to note would be that the race develops first like wolves, but ages slower, with the second birthday being a benchmark for them to start the development towards a bipedal stance, and their cognitive development is akin to that of humans. While the race has lost their home, they nowadays mostly lair on the largest moon of Ulo, Bantosian. There, they have taken a frontier mentality, blending a healthy dose of the space equivalent of good ole’ American pioneer spirit and erected a democratic, pack-based society for a loose, pretty hand-off council.

Pragmatic and orderly, the depiction of the race makes them feel rather unique – “If it ain’t born in front of you, it ain’t got no business in your home without a good look-over” is a fun maxim for the context of the race, and one that makes sense in the context of themes the race evokes. As always, the race does not feature a “Playing as a rouarou”-section, but we do get a proper subtype graft.

Racial trait-wise, rougarous get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int, 6 Hit Points and are Medium humanoids with the shapeshifter and rougarou subtypes and a base speed of 30 ft. Rougarous have blindsense (scent) of up to 30 ft. Each rougarou has an alternate, unique wolf shape of the same age and gender, and they have low-light vision and natural weapons. The racial feat provided is Lupine Shapeshifting, available for rougarou of 3rd level and higher. This one has a variety of choices and may be taken multiple times, and it may be taken as a replacement class feature at 4th, 6th, 12th or 18th level. The feat nets you either +10 ft. movement, the option to render foes prone with unarmed strikes, the option to use Survival instead of Perception to pinpoint unseen creatures as a swift action, or the menacing gaze envoy expertise talent, usable sans expertise die. The interaction with rougarou envoys is properly codified.

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

Alexander Augunas’ rougarous are mechanically precise, and put a cool spin on the concept of a lupine anthro-race. They don’t reinvent the wheel mechanically, but they do offer something that few races get this well: They understand that a race is more than crunch; it’s also culture, and a sense of plausibility/unique flair. The culturally-specific notes provide a cool backdrop, and the take on the shapeshifting angle is executed with panache and precision. Nothing to complain about – 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This adventure clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Judges: Do NOT show the cover or name of the module to the PCs/players! In a pretty dumb decision, the title is a spoiler. -.- The pdf does contain basically a DCC-version of a spell to alter the visage of targets. (level 2, fyi)

The adventure is intended for 6 4th-level characters, and a well-rounded group is very much recommended. While dangerous, the module is not one of the most deadly DCC-modules out there, so survival-chances are decent, if certainly not guaranteed, particularly not without being…ähem…changed. The adventure comes with a table listing encounters, as always, and does feature 4 nice handouts – more on that later in the SPOILER-section. The adventure, as always, comes with well-written read-aloud text that helps less experienced judges evoke the proper atmosphere.

Genre-wise, this is basically a heist/assassination in a wizard’s tower – and in atmosphere, think of this as an heir of the classic “Tower of the Elephant” in its Savage Sword of Conan iteration, on LSD.

Want to know more? Well, all right, but to go into more details, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.


..
.

All right, so the PCs are minding their own business, when the city erupts in chaos, and winged gorilla-people start slaughtering folks, while a mighty magic-user is setting stuff ablaze! How’s that for an immediate jump into the fray?

In the aftermath of the chaos, the PCs are contacted by a cadre of individuals, who have identified the culprit as the local wizard Emirikol! The planning of the heist with the conspirators is pretty detailed and fun, but can also be handled rather quickly, depending on the preferences of your group…at this point, if you were so careless as to show the cover, the players will be less motivated, for, indeed, while Emirikol is indeed a chaos mage with a whole array of rather unwholesome predilections, he was not responsible. According to the (mostly) correct intel, the conspirators can help the PCs breach the ever-changing, shifting tower, its outsides in an obvious homage, guarded by wild cats, the tower constantly changing its composition. Scaling it can be dangerous, but the PCs will only have a certain timeframe as the mighty wizard ostensibly is in stasis and may be slain.

The main module is about the exploration of Emirikol’s tower, where space and time are not beholden to the limitations of the structure. The tower’s interior, obviously, includes a pterodactyl’s roost, strange trophies. Now, I mentioned handouts – one of them does contain an array of golems in different degrees of completion, and careless PCs may well find themselves locked in the bodies of these half-finished magical constructs. The handout illustrates these bodies, and while not all are ambulatory, many are. The PCs will have to swim up a column of water to traverse floors, venture into a cranium library, and it does some smart things: There is, for example, a chance to look at the adventure’s maps, briefly, before they “animate” and are thrown in the player’s face! In contrast to a couple of other meta-tricks, this one is easy to implement, fun, and should not result in issues – kudos!

There is a massive, sorcerous observatory with bronze scorpions (awesome!) and a sorcerous workshop that contains the magical weapon Ruin, a blade of liquid metal with a pretty nasty tendency to fan the fires of ambition… The module also includes the Kaj, a unique entity (represented in one of the handouts) that share actions between their bodies, making for a great boss…or rather, penultimate boss fight.

You see, arriving at Emirikol’s true sanctum, the wizard is NOT happy – his erstwhile lover, the powerful Leotah turned bitter adversary, was actually the culprit behind the unprompted chaos in the city, and the instigator of the plot that sent the PCs inside. (Both archmages are btw. represented on a handout!) As his constructs of iron burst through the walls, Leotah and her gorillamen crash inside the tower, starting an epic duel of spells and servitor creatures, with the PCs caught in the middle. A handy table helps the judge to keep track of all those targets – for at this point, most groups will probably conclude that neither wizard should triumph. Thus, the smartest move probably will be attempting to take down the Glass Darkly (NICE!), which, in a final nod towards the classics, initiates the tower collapse. Here’s to hope that the PCs don’t dawdle or are held back…for after this adventure, they’ll probably have made at least one powerful enemy, one with plenty of experience recovering from death…if the judge has a romantic streak and the PCs were particularly successful, the two mighty wizards may well end up reunited once again, focused in their spite and hatred for the PCs…just saying…

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf offers plenty of cool b/w-artworks. The 4 handouts are neat, and I really enjoyed the gorgeous b/w-map, though no player-friendly iteration was included, which is a bit of a bummer. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but only basic ones for chapter-headers.

Michael Curtis provides a great homage of a Sword & Sorcery classic, seen through the aesthetics of DCC – it’s like playing through a Bal-Sagoth track. Outrageous, brutal and cool, oozing flavor, this is one of my favorite “Wizard’s Tower”-themed modules. It gets what makes a great wizard’s tower stand out – risk and reward are entwined, and while PCs can die and suffer horrible fates, these tend to be the result of greed or daring. Skill really helps, and being anything short of smart will be punished. Harshly. The finale is harsh and epic as well. The spoiler in the title is something I wished this had avoided, and the lack of player-friendly maps is a downside. And yet, I adore this one to bits. It has all those small touches that show that the author cared even about the small stuff, it oozes flair, and if you just remotely like Sword & Sorcery, then this’ll be right up your alley. All in all, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars, and because I’m a sucker for the theme, I’ll also award this my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

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

So, the fast attack ship of the Katar is a tier 8 Large Destroyer that comes equipped with a pulse prismatic power core, a basic drift engine and mk 4 armor as well as mk 6 defenses. The ship uses a mk 2 trinode computer, good crew quarters and basic medium-range sensors. Expansion bay-wise, we have 3 cargo holds. Weaponry-wise, we have a particle beam and heavy torpedo launchers facing forward; aft features a light torpedo launcher, while port and starboard feature a laser net. The turret features a light particle beam. With a speed of 10 hexes, these ships have the equivalent of L10 thrusters. With 200 shields, slightly skewed towards forward and aft, the ship has some staying power.

Crew-wise, this one has a captain and pilot, 3 engineers, 6 gunners and 2 science officers; the crew is generally pretty capable, with +21 in Bluff and Diplomacy making for high values. The Piloting is similarly high at +21. The pdf does come with a Computers-table that allows PCs to know things about the vessel, but it should be noted that the table contradicts the ship’s statblock: The table states it has 2 cargo holds, when the statblock notes 3. This is a pretty minor hiccup, though. If you’ve been doing your math, you’ll realize that this ship does use its full PU-budget, which makes sense.

As always, we get a filled-out version of the cool ship-sheets featured in these pdfs, and a one-page handout-style artwork of this cool ship, as well as paper-mini-style versions. The star here, though? The full-color map that does show the respective weaponry, the quarters, etc, including a katar garden and the like – it is gorgeous and really cool.

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 artwork featured is gorgeous. The cartography is awesome and full-color and makes the ship feel plausible. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver a great little supplement here. The sleek attack vessel feels like the equivalent of a lancer’s attack vessel, and makes great use of its budget. The aesthetic components are top-notch, and as a whole, I consider this to be well worth getting. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

***( )( )

This installment of the ship-supplements released under the Galaxy Pirates brand clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, so we have three iterations of the eldred heavy fighter in this pdf, all of which clock in at tier ½. All are Tiny vessels, and the MK 3 version is an interceptor with basic 20 shields and a coilgun. The interceptor comes with mk 4 defenses and armor, which means it clocks in at AC and TL 17.

The MK 1 and 2 ship versions are instead built as fighters, and thus have 5 Hull Points more. The MK 1 version also has mk 4 defenses and armor. All of the three ships come with their own Computers-lore section for PCs to know things about the ships. However, both the MK 1 and MK 2 version of the ship’s lore table note an incorrect maneuverability, and the Computers lore table for MK 1notes an incorrect weapon…or rather, I do believe that the ship’s statblock has the wrong weapon: The Lore table states that the ship should have fire-linked gyrolasers, but the statblock features the same coilgun as the MK 3 heavy fighter. Then again, the filled out versions of the ships (see below) do duplicate the coilgun…so not sure which it’s supposed to be. Both MK 1 and MK 2 ship have basic shields, but the MK 2 version has only mk 3 defenses and armor (and thus a lower AC and TL), but does feature a light particle beam weapon.

We get a full-color one-page, handout style version of the ship, and the pdf does come with paper stand-in minis. The pdf, as always, contains a form-filled version of the different ships in the cool starship sheets this series offers. (Minor nitpick: Maneuverability is noted as perfect for MK 1 and 2, and should be “good.”

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

The fighters by Paul Fields and Jim Milligan are a solid offering, and while they’re not perfect, they cost a grand total of a single buck; and they indeed are worth the low asking price. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.
Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This massive compilation clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page foreword, 1 page advice on reading statblocks, leaving us with 155.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, so, on the half page that is left by the ToC, we get a handy list of random encounters by EL, as well as a list of statblocks by type, followed by a statblock by CR-list – this makes, obviously, navigation much smoother for the GM.

But what do we get exactly in this one? Well, for one, we have system neutral dressing tables collected within – 10 Atypical Caves, 10 Atypical Cavern Encounters, 12 Natural Cavern Hazards, 20 Pieces of Cavern Dressing and 20 Things to Find in a Purple Worm Stomach are included. Sound familiar? Yep, this is basically “20 Things: Dark Caverns.” Similarly, the dressing file for Fallen Dwarven Holds and Subterranean Mines are included herein. It should also be noted that the massive dressing table for Cave & Cavern dressing from the excellent original “Caves & Caverns”-book.

Speaking of this much-beloved classic: The book also provides the “Ebon Realm” section, which provides super-handy tables for travel times, through primary, secondary, tertiary tunnels, etc. This section also cover air quality, rules-relevant hazards and sidebars for skill use. We also cover variant cave-ins, illumination and the book includes notes on walls, obstructions, and more. Water, including flash floods, a sample cavern map (player-friendly) and a proper glossary would be provided. In short, this reproduces pretty much the gold-standard for making the basics of any cavern system stand out, feel alive…so if you don’t already own the original “Caves & Caverns” book, this pretty much warrants getting this book on its own. Speaking of the original book: A significant part of said tome was devoted to a plethora of rather excellent subterranean random encounters that went above and beyond in both set-up and how they’re prepared. They are fully statted, and where applicable, reproduce e.g. the underwater combat rules in a cheat-sheet style sidebar, making them convenient for the GM to run.

Beyond this book being basically the expanded iteration of a true classic, we also have the “Ancient Empire of the Troglodytes” supplement reproduced within, alongside the “Places of Power: The Midnight Market”-installment that features a neutral zone black market perched precariously atop a vast chasm in the realms below. Beyond these two files, we also have the entirety of the lamentably short-lived Subterranean Enclaves-series included: Severed Umbra, Deephearth, Fanghome, Dilath’s Hold, Mith’Varal. Wait…isn’t there something missing? Yep, oddly, the entire series is included, but Flenheim, the rather wicked derro enclave, oddly, seems to have been excluded from this book.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant 2-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports quite a few amazing b/w-artworks. The book comes in 2 versions – one optimized for screen use, and one optimized for printing out. The pdf version comes with extensive, nested bookmarks that render navigation smooth and painless. Cartography, where applicable, is high-quality and b/w.

Creighton Broadhurst, Ron Calbick, Kalyna Conrad, Jeff Gomez, Eric Hindley, Brian Wiborg Mønster, David Posener, Alex Riggs, Mike Welham – this cadre of high-class authors provides a massive book here – one that goes above and beyond what you usually get to see from the Campaign Backdrops-series. In short: This not only provides some lavishly-detailed dressing files, collected for your convenience. Instead, it is easily one of the crunchiest books Raging Swan press ever released, courtesy of the inclusion of the absolutely brilliant “Caves & Caverns.” The fact that this collects more than dressing files makes this behave essentially like an expanded and improved version of an already fantastic offering, so if you don’t have “Caves & Caverns” already, then get this ASAP. If you already have the constituent files, this may still be worth the price of admittance for you, particularly in print/if you’re like me and end up using such well-organized compilations more often than disparate pdfs/print-outs. My final verdict will thus clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This deluxe-sized Star Log-installment 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!

Sooo, the first thing you need to know here, is that “planar scions” is the catch-all term for races suffused by planar energies; these, previously, often turned out to be humans, but in the Nova Age, this no longer necessarily holds true. The races herein thus have the mortal heritage trait. This trait lets them choose a base race of sorts from a list, and gains the race-trait noted. The Disguise check to pass off as said race is not modified, and mortal heritage affects the size of the character in question, and while they are native outsiders, the planar scions retain the mortal heritage’s race’s subtypes. How much is covered? A TON. The pdf includes coverage of quite an array of legacy races, covers races from Alien Archive I and II, races from other Starfinder sources like the Khizar, and, of course, a whole array of races hailing from the Blood Space-soaked (infused? Not sure whether blood space infused/permeates…but I like “soak”…) Xa-Osoro system, including favorites of mine like the msvokas or ydreft. (Yep, this encompasses even races like rougarous etc.)

Their racial Hit Points are, for the most part, left untouched, though a few types of planar scions do increase or decrease the amount by +2 or -2. It should be noted that each of the scion-race write-ups fits on one page, so the supplemental fluff has been cut out. No “Playing as a XYZ”, etc. sections – but considering their nature as a template race of sorts to be slotted on top of existing ones, I get the decision. (Plus, I was genuinely grateful – I really didn’t want to read for the oomphteenth time how tieflings are mistrusted, etc. – at this point, I think we all get how these fellows fit into most cosmologies…)

All righty, so let’s take a look, all right? Aasimar get Cha+2, and choose a celestial heritage, which nets ½ character level resistance versus 3 energy types, as determined by 4 celestial subtypes to choose from. Aasimar have darkvision 60 ft., and, as a standard action, can shed light within 10 ft. – the interaction with magical darkness effects and the increased light level has been tied to either CR or item level, which is clever.

Ganzi make a return, get +2 HP, +2 Con, Cha and -2 Int, darkvision 60 ft., and gain ½ level resistance to three energy types, depending on whether they are descendents of proteans or valkyries. They begin play with a planar oddity (more on that later) and may select Unlock Planar oddity as a replacement class feature at 5 of their levels.

Ifrit get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, darkvision 60 ft, their level as fire resistance, as well as a +2 racial bonus to saves vs. fire-based attacks and effects. Ifrit can generate flashlight-bright balls of flame at will, and may 1/day as a standard action, infuse such a ball with destructive energy, making it behave as an incendiary grenade, with an item level equal to the character’s level.

Oread get +2 racial HP, +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., their level as acid resistance and +2 to saves versus acid- and earth-based attacks and effects. They also get natural weapons, which may be enhanced when a mortal heritage would already grant them. Nice catch.

Suli get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, low-light vision and may 1/day as a swift action shroud their arms in energy, which lasts for 1 round per level, and bestows their choice of the four base elemental fusions to their weapon wielded, which may be circled as a swift action. Nice one, and one that really wants to be expanded upon. They also get ½ their level as a resistance versus the 4 base energy damage types (i.e. sonic excluded) and +1 to saves versus such effects. Note that, in contrast to the oread, earth-based attacks are NOT included in that array. Nice, small way of differentiation there.

Sylphs decrease racial HP by 2 (minimum 1), +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, +2 to saves vs. air- and electricity-based attacks and effects, darkvision 60 ft., and when they fall, they can use a reaction and Acrobatics to fall safely, with the DC beaten allowing for lateral movement expansion. 5th level nets a 30 ft. supernatural fly speed with perfect maneuverability.

Tieflings get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., and these fellows get a planar oddity, and may, once more, select Unlock Planar oddity as a replacement class feature. They also get resistance equal to half their level (as always, minimum 1) to 3 energy types depending on the fiendish bloodline.

Undine get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str, darkvision 60 ft. and are immune to environmental effects related to depth and pressure (I think this does not include depressurization) and don’t take penalties while fighting underwater; they can breathe both air and water and have a 30 ft. swim speed. They get +2 to saves vs. cold- and water-based attacks and effects.

Now, I already mentioned planar oddities, so let’s take a look at those, shall we? There are two feats – one to Unlock Mortal Heritage (plus one racial trait from mortal heritage race) and Unlock Planar Oddity, which nets you, bingo, one planar oddity. Some oddities have prerequisites, and DCs to resist their effects are 10 +1/2 the character’s level + key ability modifier; skill checks to resist have a DC equal to 10 + 1.5 x character level + key ability modifier. The oddities include +1 to saves vs. afflictions, being ageless, change shape, change size, +1 AC, blindsense (accounts for type); there is an option to grant yourself a +1 AC bonus vs. projectile and thrown weapons. Squeezing due to malleable body; +1 caster level with a descriptor chosen and contingent on heritage; an inverse light decrease based on the aasimar ability; character level as DR, using water for a 1/day ranged maneuver, natural weapons, prehensile tail, 1/day force a foe to reroll a d20; sense through darkness, smoke, stone or water – and finally, skilled, speak with animals and vestigial wings can be found, as well as weapon familiarity. Minor nitpick: A few of these, the limited ones, seem like Resolve would have been a good call for recharge options, but that is just me nitpicking.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with plenty of full-color artworks – one for each race, plus cover – that’s quite a bunch! The pdf doesn’t have bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length, though this does constitute a minor comfort detriment.

Alexander Augunas’ planar scions are nice – they have a common baseline that I really enjoy; it makes them feel like parts of the same, grand facet, internally consistent. They are more distinct than I expected them to be, and the planar oddity engine is intriguing, allowing for further differentiation between them. The supplement also uses SFRPG’s peculiarities in smart ways. That being said, particularly the means to unlock specific parental race combos can be, system-immanently, something that GMs should keep an eye on. The wide open nature here can potentially result in potent combos, but the framework as a whole is solid - but it does unlock the concept for all races, which is AWESOME. Oh, and usually, I really dislike planar scions – this one, with all its customizing and unlocking them for other races? It makes them cooler, more diverse and frankly, what they should have always been. 5 stars.
Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief 2-page introduction and guidance on how to use this book, we begin with the new archetype-section, which, this time around, covers 8 new archetypes. The first of these would be the bonewright armorist, who gets Death as a bonus sphere and modifies summon equipment; instead of calling forth materials, these fellows sculpt or form weapons and armor from bodies – their own or the dead. Summoning equipment from undead reanimated within the last hour does not cost a spell point; (as an aside: 20th level makes calling equipment from bodies or the character free) without a corpse on hand, the archetype has to “spend” 1d4 hit points, +1d4 per point of enhancement bonus, the damage representing the realignment of bones et al. This damage may not be reduced or redirected, but it may be healed, so it doesn’t behave as burn. The archetype also offers an array of 8 exclusive arsenal tricks, and a few of these do modify the Attack action. The tricks allow for bone weapons to be particularly effective against the same species as the donor, the full use of equipment, even while grappled due to grafted weaponry, making targets battered, etc. Battered? Well, yeah, like in Spheres of Might – and if you don’t have the book, fret not – while you’ll be missing out on one of the best books for PFRPG out there, this book does offer the relevant rules for your convenience. Healing by absorbing bone (thankfully associated with a spell point cost), debuffs added to attacks, etc. – all in all, a flavorful archetype, though there are a few purely cosmetic typos to be found here.

Soul adept elementalists replace Escape Artist with Knowledge (religion) and get the Death sphere instead of 2nd level’s bonus feat. Favored element is replaced with Ghostly Admixture (Reprinted ehre, but for convenience’s sake: It’s the ghost strike blast option), and may use the feat to use Admixtures even without the (btw. reprinted) talent. 9th level and 15th level add half and full level, respectively, to damage dealt with Ghostly Admixture blasts. Elemental defense is replaced with a scaling bonus to saves vs. stuff you’d associate with necromancy like death effects, disease, etc. Elemental movement is replaced with wraith form, which may be activated as a move action and renders the archetype incorporeal, for up to class level + casting ability modifier rounds. Being trapped in a corporeal object when the duration elapses is properly covered. The archetype also has a custom capstone, which nets immunity to death effects, sneak attacks and critical hits as well as DR 10/magic. Sneak is an odd one to list here, as it is a specific ability, in contrast to e.g. studied strike etc..

Cursed stranger gunslingers alter grit and lose gunsmith in favor of cursed hands, which autobreaks any gun the slinger touches, but as long as she has at least 1 grit, she doesn’t automatically miss, nor does it explode. Misfiring thus also replenishes a point of grit. Kudos: The ability has a caveat that prevents abuse via kittens, helpless targets etc. The archetype can choose Death sphere talents based on reanimate as bonus feats, and the archetype has 3 custom deeds: Cursed bullets, at 3rd level the option to reanimate a target shot as per the ability, using full class level, and 11th level increases the debuff of the cursed bullets. The dread crusader mageknight begins play with the Death sphere and Necromantic Limit drawback, as well as Cryptic Strike, using class level as CL for the latter. The archetype’s three mystic combats increase Cryptic Strike damage, and has two mystic combats that allow the character to build upon to spend spell point to attack more targets in reach.

Jinkininki rangers lose favored enemy with the pretty grisly requirement to consume the dead to gain the benefits against the targets, which is pretty cool. Favored terrain, camouflage and hide in plain sight are replaced with +2 to initiative and Stealth in dim light or darkness, with higher levels providing darkvision and a spell point based frightful presence . Stealth and initiative benefits are assigned to lighting conditions, and the archetype is a Low-Caster governed by Wisdom, with class level -3 + Wisdom modifier points, and a magic talent gained at 5th level and every 2 levels thereafter. The archetype may also choose Necrosis feats as combat style feats.

Necrosis feats are a new category of feats herein, in that they have effects on the character: Necrosis feats taint you, and make it progressively harder to return the character back from the dead, but they also increase in power based on the number of Necrosis feats you have, with 4 necrosis feats being a common threshold. Necrosis feats that require being activated as an immediate action may be activated with the same immediate action, and a character gets spell points equal to the number of necrosis feats they have. I assume this is gained ONCE, not per necrosis feat – this could be more clearly stated. These feats allow for the reversal of reacting towards positive and negative energy, we can find cold and electricity resistance, natural armor bonus and DR, blindsense to notice bleeding targets (and directly affect them via ghost strikes), and even a phylactery-lite-version may be found – per se a solid and nice concept, somewhat akin to Akashic feats, lite-version. The 4-feat-plus benefits often btw. make the benefits last longer or enhance them in similar manners; another hazard against which you get a save-boost, etc.

But for now, let’s return to the archetypes: The spectral infiltrator is suitable for rogue/unchained rogue, and loses trap/danger senses as well as the talents gained at 2nd, 6th and 14th level. For those, the archetype gets ghostwalk, the option to use a move action to ignore difficult terrain and move alongside surfaces, gaining class level to Stealth, with the total duration per day 3 + class level. At higher levels, this allows for flight and quicker activation. Nitpick: ghost touch reference not italicized properly. The four exclusive talents include a chance to cause Wisdom damage to targets seeking to mind-control, trigger-change for magical traps and an untyped damage (not a fan) via incorporeal touch attacks, while the other upgrades ghostwalking. The archetype also comes with 3 advanced talents and a custom capstone. Surprisingly nice engine-tweak!

The spheres of power shifter-class gets the famine spirit archetype, who gets Alteration and Death instead of shapeshifter, and a variety of animal empathy that works only with pretty dumb undead and that improves at higher levels, replacing the communication abilities. Endurance is replaced with the bite bestial trait. Higher levels make those slain by the bite harder to return to life, and the swallow whole ability, including acid. This includes being capable of swallowing targets larger than the character, and bite attack/Vital Strike’d bites. Fun fact: I had a character like this in my very first Ravenloft campaign back in the 3.0 days, and while my rules back then were obviously less refined, this did make me smile, concept-wise.

The gravecrawler symbiat replaces mental powers with Mind and Death, and instead of psionics, implants drones in creatures, creating a rather icky (and awesome, flavorwise!) collective that allows for the surveillance of targets implanted. The trap sense is replaced with swarm powers – you see, the archetype carries a unique insect-colony inside, and begins play with 2 swarm abilities chosen from a massive list; another is gained at 3rd level and every 3rd level thereafter, and 7th and 13th level allow for the quicker use of these abilities. If applicable, Intelligence is the governing ability score modifier, and from debuff droning to burrow speed and to cocooning targets, discorporation (tightly codified within the spheres system), etc., the options here are delightful. While there are a few italicizations missing, this one is AWESOME. 9th level, for example, allows you to affect your drones with Mind and Death sphere effects, regardless of line of effect, and yes, undead reanimated do have drones and the whole Mind/Death-synergy thing actually comes together really well with awesome visuals! This one is a winner of a class hack and ends the engine-tweak-centric archetype chapter on a high note!

The basic magic chapter offers a couple of options that plenty of folks have been asking for: These include going Diablo 2 necromancer with corpse bombs, instilling cannibalistic urges via your (ghost strike)s, manipulate corpses to e.g. regrow skin or change the appearance (awesome for investigative scenarios)…and yes, there is a powerful option to sacrifice undead to take the hit for you. No, it can’t be cheesed. Undead may also be used to deliver ghost strikes, we can find an option that allows you to grant undead combat feats, talents or teamwork feats and the means to hamper and even negate healing of ghost strike’d targets. Teaching tricks to undead, and absorbing targets into your negative energy-infused flesh…some cool ones here.

The advanced magic section contains 4 new talents – one for combining undead, one for a sphere-based haunt-creation, and there is a means to painlessly kill allies – which then may be called back from the beyond easier. For complex infiltrations/intrigue/etc., this is pretty neat. There also is an option to bypass death effect immunity, which should be handled with care – obviously. Now, I’ve already talked about some of the new feats, namely the new Necrosis feat category, but we do have more: A feat that prevents bleed effects from being stilled by magic, for example, is pretty cool – and yes, Sanguinist’s Handbook’s review is coming very soon! There also are (Dual Sphere) feats, including for example and impressive one with the Weather sphere, which allows you to animate a ton of undead, provided it ours enough. It’s a small thing, but I love how this explains in-game why undead come out of their graves in hordes preferably when it storms. Cooperative undead commanding may also be found, and Destruction fans will probably enjoy the option to apply (blast shape) talents to ghost strikes. Note, though: Considering some of the combos with AoE attacks via ghost strike, this bears keeping a close eye on. While it does thankfully provide a Will-save to negate, it can become deadly rather fast. Ghost strike in melee, and we have an Improved enhancer for Cryptic Strike. Death and Telekinesis may be used in conjunction, which blends neatly the Poltergeist component with the other sphere. There is also a nice charmed life tweak that allows you one of three rather neat defensive tricks due to being a Skeletal Contortionist, and there are feats to specialize on variant necromancy, and the option to get an undead animal companion. The pdf includes a new trait (Benefits:-header missing) that nets you a 1 HD necrotic marionette, and we get 4 nice sphere-specific drawbacks. What’s that marionette? It’s basically a puppet that counts as a corpse, and is featured in the new equipment section. NICE. The section also introduces splinter orbs (also known as bone balls) – basically skeletons in a ball, easy to carry around. The book concludes with salient advice for GMing necromancy, an errata of Greater Undead for use with the material, and a recap of haunt rules and being incorporeal – handy.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting on a rules-language level are pretty strong, and on a formal level, the book is also more precise than a few others in the series. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a mixture of new and stock full color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

“Yawn, yet another Necromancer book.” Nope, actually, this has quite a few often neglected tricks. Back when Spheres of Power first hit stores, I found myself enjoying the take on necromancy, and this book provided some genuinely positive surprises. The archetype section was off to a slow start, but kept its biggest and most impressive components for last – both famine spirit and gravecrawler are impressive beasts indeed, with the former being a cooler take on the wendigo/famine-trope than many I’ve seen before. The Necrosis feats as a means to reward specialization are a nice angle, though I do believe that offering a broader range when the additional benefits kick in may be prudent, if only to avoid all of them kicking off with taking the fourth feat. That being said, at the same time, the combination of more precise formatting and some genuinely creative and fun options means that Luke Williams and Adam Meyers have created one really nice sphere-expansion. While there are a few components where a slight bit of polish may be prudent, these are few and far in-between. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform – this is simply closer to the 5 than to the 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

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

We begin this supplement with a nice int5roduction to the race and its most prominent members in the Xa-Osoro system (one of which erroneously calls them “saursi”, as a purely aesthetic nitpick), before we begin with the physical description. Cool: The xaursi are differentiated between 2 subspecies – the diurnal xal and the nocturnal oso (which is btw. also noted in the abbreviated NPC-reference), who are, in a nice linguistic touch, obviously named after the binary stars of the system. Xal have brilliantly-white plumage, while oso have darker plumage. Note that parentage doesn’t provide an indicator of which subspecies the offspring will be, which resulted in the belief that the twin-stars’ patronage is what determines the xaursi’s plumage. The speckled plumage of these folks can store solar energy, dancing across them like scintillating lasers. The xaursi’s homeworld has been destroyed by the cataclysmic Regicide, and nowadays, the orphaned race, always focusing on a dualistic and holistic approach, has been tinted with twangs of sadness and loss. The write-up paints a diverse and concise picture here.

As always, the only thing not included in the write-up would be the “Playing as a xaursi..:”-section of roleplaying advice. On a plus-side, the xaursi do get their own subtype graft, which is awesome, but misses two (very minor) things – a closed bracket after flight maneuverability, and the notice that the fly speed granted should be extraordinary. Then again, the latter can be deduced from consulting the xaursi’s proper racial write-up.

Speaking of which: Xaursi are Small and have a 20 ft. base speed and 30 ft. extraordinary flight with average maneuverability. As a balancing tool, until 5th level, their flight needs to end on solid ground each turn. Kudos. Xaursi have 2 Hit Points, and all get +2 Dexterity and -2 Constitution; xal get +2 Charisma, while oso get +2 Wisdom. Their unique feathers can create a variety of effects via faerie feathers as a move action. They can shed light in a 10 ft.-radius; get +2 to Bluff made to feint, Disguise to change appearance or Stealth made to hide; +2 to dirty tricks made to blind targets or resistance 2 versus a single energy type, chosen from fire or electricity. Only one of these effects may be in effect; dismissing the effect or changing it, is as well a move action. The race also gets low-light vision, natural attacks and a +2 racial bonus on saves vs. darkness, light and shadow effects.

The pdf includes a new feat that allows a xaursi to have two feather effects in effect at a given time.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language level, and almost as good on a formal level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork by Jacob Blackmon of the xaursi is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

This is the first file by Hilary Murphy Moon that I’ve analyzed, and it is a really pleasant surprise. The xaursi are not just another bland bird-race – they have an interesting angle on the fluff side;and on the rules-side, their plumage-based abilities are creative, and from balance regarding flight to the bonus-typing, the race is creative, precise and fun. I know that the plumage component warrants further expansion – I’d really like to see more from these owl-folk! All in all, definitely a race worth recommending at a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. Great job for a freshman offering indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This expansion book for Spheres of Power clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by one of my readers.

So, while the default pathfinder magic item creation rules work without a big snag in conjunction with Spheres of Power, this pdf does endeavor to provide a more sphere-centric approach to the subject matter. Thus, we begin with the basic assumptions: To create a magic item, a caster must possess the appropriate item creation feat, the base spheres associated with the item, and a caster level with that sphere equal to or greater than the item’s CL. Charms, implements and magical arms and armor instead use the crafter’s MSB. Temporary increases to CL do not qualify, and item creation requires half the price in base materials. The crafter also requires a fairly comfortable, quiet place to work and a day’s work is classified as the standard 8 hours, which gets 1K gp worth of price done. At the very least, crafting must be done in 4-hour increments. Scrolls, potions, etc. only take 2 hours to make if their base price is below 250 gp. After the crafting period, an appropriate skill-check (usually Spellcraft) must be made to determine whether the item has been made correctly. Cooperative crafting is also noted.

The pdf then proceeds to present talent-based item crafting. Such items have a base cost determined by multiplying caster level times complexity times base cost. The complexity rating is determined by the number of benefits the item has, with range, unique changes, etc. accounted for. After this, we have a breakdown of the individual spheres, with blood and fallen fey included alongside the original sphere-array. Mixed and multiple effects, permanency and the like may also be found, and items that don’t need to be worn or held obviously are more expensive. The pdf then presents an array of new crafting feats for use with spheres of power, thankfully including a table that lists the approximation of the core crafting feats for a relatively painless implementation of other materials. Kudos: This does account for the peculiarities of automatic bonus progression, should you be using them in conjunction with implements. The presentation structure of e.g. charms and the like and general pricing make this section a surprisingly helpful and concise one. I know that I did not have to engage in page-flipping or the like, and the general baseline formulae struck me as sound, with bonus types and maximum bonuses noted properly. While I do not yet have the long-term experience of tinkering with these, a few cursory tests with the baselines provided made the system’s results come out within the parameters I consider to be desirable. The book also does cover a ton of special weapon, armor, etc. properties by bonuses and provides corresponding spheres.

The book also presents an assortment of new magic item special abilities that include making shields apply their bonus versus ranged touch attacks (at +1, a welcome boost for shields), and armor that, at +4, can maintain concentration for you or implements that help you aim your sphere effects. Implements capable of absorbing e.g. wands are interesting, though they should probably note what happens if the implement is destroyed while the wand’s absorbed – does it rematerialize, or is it gone for good? Weapons that may be attuned to those they damage, a siege weapon enhancement that makes them more potent versus rigging et al….some nice ones here.

The book presents an assortment of 7 new feats that allows for the application of armorist special abilities via arcane pool, divine bond, etc., better splash weaponry save DCs, adding casting ability modifier to the item save DC (thankfully locked behind 10th level), and limited wand recharging is also presented. As far as items are concerned, we get bracers and bucklers capable of holding wands and an assortment of cool poisons, including one item that comes with an alternate alchemist’s recipe. Ammunition to deliver vials and poisons and a selection of ritual books can also be found within.

From enchanted dancing scarves to acorns that generate the Nature sphere’s branch-pummeling, the pdf includes several specific items, including crystal grenades that encase the target in, bingo, crystal, and an elixir that allows for a VERY limited renewal of spell points. Thankfully, this one is subject to serious limitations. Elixirs for removing enchantments and oils to store sphere abilities are included. There are quite a few interesting shields and staves to be found, and from a herald’s blade to bonded notebooks, there are a ton of items in this book, which range from combat-centric to being focused on utility. Divine symbols (with a Skybourne focus) may also be found here. Really cool: There is, for example, a seal that grows in power with the TPA a character has with a given cult. This may be a small thing, but it’s something I’d like to see expanded further, considering how it makes organization membership more enticing and is a field that hasn’t really been covered. As a minor nitpick – this section misses a few italicizations.

If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll know that I’ve always adored Purple Duck Games’ legendary items and similar takes on scaling magic items: This book also provides a couple of these, like the Nature sphere-associated Aegis of Sakura, made from greenwood leaf, the swordcane pistol horror’s ruin for the discerning, monster-hunting gentleman, or bandoliers of grenades or medic satchels for more militaristic characters. The latter is btw. great in that it gets rid of some of the detailed tracking required. Intelligent item powers are also noted, and the book closes strongly with 2 minor, and two major artifacts – the latter including a divine notebook for the powers of (flawed) creation and the blade Finis, which is basically the evil-destroying sudden-death godmode blade that can and will annihilate evil. Okay, it also burns through wielders fast, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, and pretty good on a formal one; I noticed primarily formal snafus. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with a blend of original and stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Adam Meyers, Andrew Stoeckle, Andrew J. Gibson, Derfael Oliveira, John Little and Johannes Luber have delivered a pretty impressive item book for the Spheres of Power-system. The crafting tools presented are solid, the items more often than not interesting, and the baselines provided most assuredly should make this worthwhile for anyone using the system. All in all, this is a well-wrought addition to the Spheres of Power framework, and as such, receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This Spheres of Power-expansion clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The archetypes within this book are obviously created for use with the Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might systems, and as such, we begin with a few standards for use of archetypes with those systems: Archetypes with diminished spellcasting lose the magical talents gained at 2nd level and every 6 levels thereafter. Addition or alteration of spell lists is lost, and spells known added instead yield an additional magical talent at the first level the spells become known, but only one talent per group of spells. Proficiency gains for martial weapons can instead yield a martial tradition. Expenditure of spell slots can be substituted for spell point expenditure; equivalent spell level of spell points expended is ½ caster level, rounded up, maximum 9. Arcane bond instead uses the cosmic sage’s variant of the ability of the same name, and being a spherecaster qualifies for a specific type of spellcasting.

So, what kind of archetypes do we get? The first would be the Apex Predator ranger, who only has light armor, simple weapon and buckler proficiency, but gains a martial tradition if it’s the character’s first level. Apex predators are Low-Casters with Wisdom and as key ability modifier and class level + Wisdom modifier spell points. The archetype gets a magic talent every time she gets a caster level. The archetype also is considered to be a Proficient practitioner, using Wisdom as practitioner modifier, which replaces combat styles. Instead of tracking and swift tracking, the archetype gets the Scout sphere as a bonus sphere, and may substitute Survival for Knowledge checks at -5 when using the scout ability. This penalty is lost at 8th level. Basically, an adaptation of the ranger to the Spheres-systems.

The bastion of conviction employs a similar engine-tweak design paradigm, sans Scout sphere, but uses casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier and uses class level as BAB for combat feats and also counts them as fighter levels. The archetype is a proficient practitioner and loses the bonus feats at 3rd, 6th, 8th, 15th and 18th level, and 11th level’s feat is replaced with regaining martial focus when using a positive or negative energy-based ability. The soldier of the gods inquisitor replaces solo tactics and the teamwork feats at 3rd, 6th, 9th, 15th and 18th level with being an Adept practitioner using Wisdom as practitioner modifier.

Grand purifier (pala or antipaladins) are Charisma-based Low-Casters with class level + casting ability modifier spell points, and a magic talent every time a CL’s gained. Every odd level nets a combat talent, which replaces lay on hands/touch of corruption. When the archetype uses an attack action to attack the target of smite good, the paladin gains an additional circumstance bonus equal to class level to attack rolls. This, obviously, is intended to reward not going full attack, which is generally a sensible goal, though it does offer some serious power upgrade. I think this could have been solved more elegantly. When the archetype reduces an intelligent enemy with HD equal to or less than class level to below 1 hit point, they can attempt to purify them. This necessitates a Will save, with Charisma as modifier governing the DC. This entails a permanent alignment change, which is pretty brutal (and cool) regarding wars fought with ideologies. (As a nitpick: atonement reference not italicized properly.) Channel energy is replaced with regaining martial focus when using smite to reduce a target to 0 hit points or less. Condemnation (Save DC also governed by Charisma). As an attack action, the character can spend a spell point or expend martial focus to make an attack that has an additional effect on the target. These can include preventing aid another, adding a glow (not italicized properly), temporary preventing hit point replenishment etc. 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter unlock new arrays of condemnation options. These replace mercies/cruelties, and they are pretty neat.

Arcane weaponeer magi are Intelligence-using High-Caster that gain level + Intelligence modifier spell points. 4th level allows the archetype to enhance armor and shields via arcane pool, with 5th level providing an improperly-formatted list of special weapon properties that may be substituted. The plus values in brackets would help render this easier to use, and the special armor/shield qualities should be italicized. This replaces spell recall. Spell combat is tweaked, allowing for a full-round action with melee weapons to also allow for the use of a sphere-casting ability with a casting time of 1 standard action or less. The spell combat may also be used to maintain concentration effects, and using spell combat imposes a -2 penalty to attack rolls. Additionally, the arcane weaponeer learned to use magic and doesn’t need to make concentration checks because of damage taken from melee attacks from enemies he’s aware of. This section has something missing: I’m pretty sure it should only apply while in spell combat, or it should not apply universally, and only for the sphere abilities of the archetype; otherwise, this is too dippable. Spellstrike is modified to work in conjunction with spheres. 7th level nets expanded knowledge, which allows the archetype to gain a magic talent he meets the prerequisites for, as a move action, gaining it for 1 minute. The ability may be used ½ class level times per day – verbiage is a bit confusing here, and could be taken to mean that the talent gained can be used this often. The ability may not be stacked atop itself, and 13th and 19th level allows for the use of the ability optionally as a swift and free action, respectively. This replaces the medium and heavy armor proficiency as well as greater spell access. Bonus feats are modified, and improved spell combat is replaced with the option to forego iterative attacks in favor of moving before or after spell combat. Knowledge pool is replaced with stalwart at 11th level, and also at this level, improved spell recall is replaced with the option to enhance weaponry and armor/shields as a swift action. 14th level replaces greater spell combat with ANY number of metamagic sans casting time increase in conjunction with spell combat. I’d have made the number of metamagic feats that may freely apply scale here – as written, this begs to be abused. The capstone allows for the casting of a second sphere ability in conjunction with spell combat, requiring that you forego the iterative attacks and codifying this all properly. The pdf also includes a pretty massive array of sphere-themed magus arcana, including low-range sift action teleport for Warp-sphere users.

Cosmic sage wizards are Intelligence-based High-Casters, and gain a magic talent at every even level, 2 at every odd level. Arcane bond is modified: When choosing an object, the wizard may use a standard action to gain a talent he doesn’t have for 1 minute. Prerequisites must still be fuldilled, if any. This may be used 1/day, plus 1/day for every 4 levels, and the ability can’t be stacked. Scribe Scroll (improperly formatted) is gained at 1st level, and arcane school is replaced at 2nd level with sagacious secrets, a book that may be consulted to enhance CL at the cost of an increase in casting duration to at least a full-round action. The bonus increases at higher levels. The dual-blooded sorcerer is a Charisma-based High-Caster, and gains a bonus spell point for every even-numbered class level attained, and a magical talent every level. The archetype gains a second bloodline, and bloodline arcana may be replaced with bonus magical talents or spell points, and the archetype gets the complex interaction array done right. Limited number of rounds of use per day bloodline abilities may be recharged by spell point expenditure and meditation, and another ability fuses the sorcerer 1st level bloodline ability. Interesting upgrade/take on the sphere-sorcerer; like it!

The mystic scion bloodrager is a Charisma-using Low-Caster, who gets a magic talent at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter. Bloodrage is replaced with the unchained barbarian’s rage, and uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge, the archetype gains Destruction sphere with Energy Focus drawback (and the bonus blast talent), and the archetype gets to choose a damage type, and when a Destruction sphere ability causes damage of that type, he may use class level as CL. 4th level modifies bloodraging to allow for sphere-use, and replaces bloodcasting. The higher level abilities modify the greater/tireless/mighty rages according to what you’d expect, though the greater ability allows for the use of self-targeting sphere abilities in conjunction with entering rage, getting concentration right. As a complaint: The eligible sphere abilities for this combo should be limited by the action required to activate them to avoid for long casting cheesing.

The withering witch is an Intelligence-governed High-Caster with a magic talent each level and patron spells replaced with corrupted magic: When the archetype uses a sphere ability or hex, it may be corrupted as a free action, a number of times per day equal to class level + casting ability modifier. Only one such effect may be added per hex or sphere ability, with 10 abilities provided. Most, but not all of them has an improvement gained at 11th level. These include instlling a sense of mania, contagion, venom, bleeding, etc. Nice, though the scaling mutation buff should have a typed bonus that prevents the physical ability scores from being buffed too high in conjunction with other options. The archetype also includes a total of 8 exclusive hexes, which are pretty nice, including channel energy, the option to meditate and spend spell points to regain corrupt magic uses and the like.

The soul with many faces shaman is a Wisdom-based Mid-Caster, with one talent per CL gained, and a sphere associated with the spirit chosen, which is thus designated the spirit sphere. At 4th level, we get another sphere associated with a wandering spirit. Instead of spirit magic, we have a magic talent that may be redistributed when resting, taken from the spirit sphere, with 4th level allowing for the choice from the wandering spirit as well. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter add another such talent. 9th level nets the spirit animal ability and that of the wandering spirit, as well as any appearance changes. Shamans and witches also get 4 hexes for use of e.g. Death-sphere-based undead as sphere ability deliverers, fast healing in the dark (with, thankfully, a cap), an illusion-based AoE demoralize, or an eliciter emotion.

While we’re on the subject of roughly nature-themed archetypes, the greenrunner hunter is a Wisdom-based Mid-Caster with magic talent gains that correspond to CL-increases, and the archetype is an Adept practitioner using his casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier. Animal companion is modified, with the archetype gaining the Beastmastery sphere, locked into the (handle animal) Beastmastery package, using class level as BAB to determine sphere effects. The archetype also gains animal companion, using full BAB as druid class level for the companion, and the archetype may teach the companion the skirmisher ranger archetype’s hunter’s tricks. Instead of wild empathy, we get the Beastmastery sphere’s Animal Empathy, and precise companion is replaced with shared magic, making the companion count as in range for sphere abilities targeting single creatures, and allowing for the expenditure of an additional spell point to also affect the companion. Rather cool and well-wrought translation of the hunter-engine.

Skalds can choose to become growling marauders, Charisma-based Mid-Casters with magic talents gained with CLs, and the option to choose a bardic masterpiece or skald saga instead of a magic talent. Okay, but how does this interact with the costs of bardic masterpieces? This fellow is an Adept practitioner using Charisma as practitioner modifier, and these replace scribe scroll, uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge and damage resistance. Well-versed is replaced with choosing a magic or combat talent, using class level as BAB or CL for that talent. This may be re-designated upon resting anew. Rage powers are replaced with heavy chord, which allows for the sharing of a chosen combat talent or sphere with allies affected by inspired rage, with every 3 levels thereafter allowing for the choice of an additional talent or combat feat to share. Non-practitioners may use their highest mental attribute. Spell kenning is modified to 1/day allow for the use of a magic talent added or a new base sphere for a casting increase by one step. This may be used an additional time per day every 6 levels thereafter.

Nightblazer investigators are Intelligence-based Mid-Casters, with CL increases governing magical talents, and 1st level makes the archetype choose a vice – this vic must be indulged to regain inspiration. Studied strike and combat are gained at 2nd level, with 1d6 base damage, +1d6 every 2 levels thereafter. The poison-related abilities are replaced with choosing a Dex-, Wis- or Cha-based skill, and use Intelligence instead as the governing ability modifier, with 5th, 8th and 11th level providing another one. The archetype gets danger sense, and keen recollection is replaced with the option to increase studied strike’s damage via spell point expenditure. Swift alchemy is replaced with the ability to deliver sphere abilities via studied strike, with DC increasing. The pdf also sports 5 investigator talents, including, for example, studied strike-telekinesis-synergy and divination/inspiration combos.

The masked adept vigilante gets a modified skill list and only 4 + Intelligence skills per level. They are Mid-Casters using Charisma as casting ability modifier, magic talents tied to CL-increase. At 1st level, the masked adept chooses a magic sphere to be the hidden sphere. This is gained as a bonus sphere, plus bonus talent, and uses class level as CL. The hidden sphere is integrated into the costome, using vigilante identity as a staff of power (formatting incorrect) that scales; this replaces vigilante specialization. The vigilante may not take hidden strike modifications, but may choose stalker-exclusive talents. Sphere-casting vigilantes also may choose a familiar, hidden magic, and Alteration users have a nice synergy talent. There also is an Illusion-sphere option to create a hologram. Nice.

Knave bards work pretty analogous regarding the base chassis, and as such, also have the interaction-clarification requirement missing for the bardic masterpiece component. Countersong is replaced with a pretty potent self-buff and the option to taunt struck opponents, which also negates morale bonuses temporarily. Stealthy use of performances replaces distraction, and well-versed is replaced with the ability to designate a sphere upon resting, using class level as CL for the sphere. Soothing song is replaced with the option to affect ALL additional allies within 60 ft. with sphere abilities. More elegant here: Making the number of affected allies stack. Inspire heroics is replaced with a performance that hampers magic.

Part II of my review can be found here!


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

After a brief contextualization of the dragonkin race in the context of the Xa-osoro system, we are introduced to the dragonkin paragon archetype, which is only available for dragonkin or characters with the partner bond racial trait. The archetype nets an alternate class feature at 2nd level, namely clutch bond, which allows for the formation of partner bonds with two willing nondragonkin creatures simultaneously. All members of the clutch roll initiative and share the highest result, which is a pretty potent option. Additionally, each dragonkin prerequisite feat may be taken as an alternate class feature at 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level.

Speaking of dragonkin feats, there are quite a lot of them inside this pdf, 17 to be precise. Expand Clutch Bond increases the number of partners you can have with clutch bond by 1, and may be taken multiple times. Enhance partner lets you choose EAC, Fortitude saves, KAC, Reflex saves or Will saves or a skill you’re trained in. Whenever you’re within 30 ft. of your partner, you grant them a +1 enhancement bonus to rolls or checks of the chosen kind. (Nitpick: EAC/KAC aren’t exactly rolls or checks, but that doesn’t hamper rules-integrity.) This may be taken multiple times – I assume that you have to choose a new one on subsequent taking of the feat.

Dragonkin with Improved Unarmed Strike may choose the Blistering Fangs combat feat, which allows you to replace half of the damage of your unarmed strikes with fire damage, with a swift action usable to turn this ability on or off. The feat properly notes interaction with multi-damage-type unarmed attacks. Kudos! There are three base “Bonded” feats: Bonded Fortitude, Bonded Reflexes, Bonded Will. While the dragonkin and bonded partner are within 100 ft. and conscious (i.e. not asleep, dead, dying, etc.), both gain a +1 enhancement bonus to the respective saving throw as denoted by the feat-name.

Bonded Agility requires Bonded Reflexes: As a move action you can grant your partner the operative’s uncanny agility class feature’s benefits until the start of your next turn. Being out or reach, knocked out, etc. does end the benefits. Bonded Assault requires 3rd level, and when you attack a target you and the partner are threatening, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to roll twice and take the higher result. Dragonkin Senses nets you blindsense (vibration) 30 ft.; Draconian Presence requires 5 ranks Intimidate and nets you frightful presence, activated via 1 Resolve, and with Charisma as governing key ability modifier. Improved Breath Weapon requires 9th level, and increases breath weapon base damage to 2d6, and by a further +1d6 at 12th and 15th level.

Mounted Bond applies when you let your partner willingly ride you as a mount, and allows you to make a DC 15 Acrobatics check to shield the partner from harm as a swift action. On a success, the partner gains cover, but can’t attack or cast spells until you or your partner uses a move action to reposition the partner properly. Nice one. Partner Screen applies when your partner is within natural reach and at least one size category smaller than you. This grants the partner partial cover, and the feat comes with Bodyguard and In Harm’s Way synergy. Improved Partner Screen lets you reduce damage the partner takes by your level, stacking with DR; damage thus prevented is applied to you instead, but is subject to DR, resistances and immunities. (Minor nitpick: The Prerequisite here notes “Improved Partner Screen”, when the feat can’t have itself as a prerequisite – that should just be Partner Screen.

Spell-sharing Bond requires the ability to cast 2nd level spells, and whenever you cast a harmless spell or SP with a duration exceeding 1 round targeting a single creature, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to share the spell or SP’s effects with the partner if they’re within your reach. Both targets gain full benefits, but duration is halved for both. Strike in Unison nets your partner the option to make an attack at -4 to the attack roll as a reaction whenever your critically hit an opponent, provided the partner is within 100 ft. of you. This works the other way round as well, and only works with weapons eligible for AoOs. Tandem Movements makes you immune to the harmful effects of your partner’s attacks while within range of the partner bond’s granted telepathy. The feat gets interaction with charm and similar effects right. Kudos!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level. I only noticed cosmetic hiccups that won’t bother any but the most picky of folks. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a really neat piece of artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ dragonkin options are diverse, and for the most part very interesting: The focus on the partner bond as a social mechanic and as a teamwork facilitator is something I genuinely enjoyed seeing. As such, I will round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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This expansion of the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Framed by a nice piece of introductory prose and some advice for players to render abjurer-themes interesting, the book starts off with 5 different archetypes, the first of which would be the faithful shepherd, who is a Mid-Caster based on Wisdom, with a spell pool of class level + Wisdom modifier and 1 talent per caster level. The archetype gets the Life and Protection spheres and uses class level as caster level for them. The archetype is locked into positive energy channeling. Instead of spontaneous casting, the archetype gets a massive talent array – the so-called divine works. The archetype gets one of these at first level, and an additional one every odd level thereafter. These include healing buffs for ward-based healing (with an anti cheese-caveat), using channel energy uses to create signs that duplicate exorcist hedgewitch sanctions, using casting ability modifier with the deity’s favored weapon, use a ward as a 30 ft. aura (no, protective barrier is not eligible) etc. – really cool take on a sphere healer/protector cleric-y character.

The impossible warrior fighter replaces the 2nd level bonus feat with the ability to parry spells, SPs and sphere abilities; the parry works as an immediate action that uses class level instead of MSB, and rules for creatures with SPs are provided. An interesting angle: This only negates the effect on the fighter, and the fighter must expend a standard or move action on his next turn to disperse the parried energy, or be affected at the end of the turn! This is a cool caveat, as it rewards players while imposing a tax on the potent ability. The 6th level bonus feat replacement lets this fellow dispel or suppress effects on creatures or objects; 10th level’s bonus feat further improves this ability, and 14th level allows for the dispelling of multiple effects. The 18th level ability’s verbiage allows for striking back the effect to the originator.

The living weapon armorist gets good Fort and Ref saves and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons, but not with armor or shields. The archetype gets, no surprise there, protection as a bonus sphere, with the Limited Protection drawback, which may be bought off. The archetype gets Armored Magic as a bonus talent, and uses class level as caster level for summon aegis, which replaces summon equipment. This one allows you to treat summoned equipment as basically armor and shield stand-ins, which is an interesting angle to pursue, though one that requires, obviously, a pretty expert player. The bound equipment thus is modified to apply to such armor and shield stand-ins. Instead of armor training, we get the fighter’s weapon training at 5th level, and the class gets an array of arsenal tricks that allow for the sacrifice of spell points instead of aegis when using a (succor) talent. Minor nitpick: In the unarmored base damage increase talent, size categories aren’t correctly capitalized. It also refers to the bound weapon ability, which the archetype doesn’t have. There are a few of these minor snafus, and while not gamebreakers per se, they do hamper the pretty complex archetype a bit. Quick summons and infinite arsenal are modified, but we have another nomenclature snafu here, with a reference to armored aegis that should refer to defensive aegis instead.

The marshal controller mageknight is proficient with simple weapons and light armor + shields, and if the class level is the first, he gets a martial tradition. When the archetype gets a magic talent (excluding the 2 ones when first gaining casting), they can instead get a combat talent, using casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier. The archetype blends the Protection sphere (with limited Protection, cannot use aegis) and the Guardian sphere, locked into patrol as guardian package. These replace 1st level’s magic talent and resist magic. The wards the character places make foes that violate them trigger AoOs, and this has synergy with patrol. The terms of violations for wards are concisely defined. The archetype also gets an array of 7 exclusive mystic combats, which enhance what should be clear by the name – this is basically a controller, and an interesting one.

The shield of the gods inquisitor is a Wisdom-using Mid-Caster with class level + Wisdom modifier spell points, and track is replaced with a bonus talent chosen from Enhancement, Fate and Protection. Instead of judgment and the follow ups, we get the means to use (aegis), (consecration) and (enhance) talents as a swift action, even ones they don’t have, provided they meet the prerequisites. This has a limited array of daily uses, obviously, and uses scale. Higher levels allows for the activation of multiple such abilities at once. The pdf also has two armorist tricks, though formatting here misses some italicizations. Eliciters get the aversion emotion, hedgewitches may qualify as having the exorcism tradition benefit as a secret, and said tradition is actually really flavorful, focusing on the 13 sanctions, defensive signs that are pretty potent and flavorful.7 tradition secrets, a tradition mastery and 6 grand secrets complement easily one of my favorite pieces of content for the hedgewitch so far. Incanters also get stuff – two complex specializations; one (2 specialization points) nets an attunement over the environment, which makes them walking, scaling countermagic zones; the other, Lattice Weaver is a Protection sub-specialization at 3 points and nets you a crystalline lattice that can basically generate barriers that may be moved around, becoming more potent and later, it may also form an aegis, etc. – really cool! 5 mystic combats and 3 magus arcana and just as many rogue talents complement this section.

The basic talent section sports an errata that specifies that different aegises can be stacked on a target, that barriers don’t block teleportation, and that the Healing Aegis doesn’t require a spell point to use – which makes sense, as the base ability already has a spell point cost. Speaking of which – this one, as well as the Luck option of the Protection sphere have retroactively been designated (succor) talents – i.e. effects that kick in when you dismiss an aegis. This would be as well a place as any to note that there is something annoying about formatting – there are abilities that are called “Xyz aegis”, and they are harder to distinguish from aegis talents, as the book isn’t particularly good at italicizing it properly. It’s a minor thing, but it kinda annoyed me. The new talents include scaling miss chances (that decrease when negating hits) and the means to place cubes instead of barriers – weird there: They don’t have to be contiguous. Providing DR for dismissing an aegis, repairing barriers, anti-illusion wards, longer durations for wards sans concentration – the pdf covers quite a breadth of options.

Glyphs and quicker ward use, help versus emotion (erroneously referred to as “emotional”) and mind-affecting effects, ward/aegis options to make targets behave as though they had no alignment, bonuses versus Life sphere effects, wards versus specific spheres, a (succor) talent that allows for immediate action counterspelling of spells or sphere abilities, with the chance to return them to sender…all in all, a neat section.

The advanced magic chapter includes more complex glyphs, permanent wards or e.g. an aegis that prevents being directly targeted make for powerful tricks that are well-situated in this chapter. The two incantations are true winners: One for an impenetrable dome around a vast area (iconic!) and one to seal planar rifts. Amazing! We also get a new ritual, basically a variant of the old explosive runes trick.

Of course, there is also a pretty massive feat-section, for ward-favored enemy or aegis-pala synergy, Counterspelling Strikes, the usual (Dual Feat) fun, a feat that interacts with the Combat Stamina engine – some nice ones here. The pdf offers three neat traits and a couple of nice and flavorful protection sphere drawbacks. The equipment section provides a couple of solid consumables, but really cool would be the two armor properties: Anti-ballistic and ant-spell are really cool: The former helps versus potent projectile weaponry, while the later helps fortify the wearer versus effects where SR applies. Interesting angle! There is a banishment-style property priced at +2, which is imho too low. Preventative nets you a circumstance bonus to AC equal to weapon enhancement bonus for 1 minute or until you hit another target. The pdf also offers two staff properties, a new ring and, really neat, a scaling amulet, the amulet of primal protection. The pdf closes with salient advice for the players.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are generally good at tackling the complexities herein, but particularly the latter is significantly weaker than usual for the series, sometimes to the point where it impacted rules integrity and how easily the material can be understood. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf offers a blend of new and stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew Gibson has penned a rather cool supplement here, and he has managed to do several neat things with the class options and tricks within. That being said, the formatting and minor inconsistencies do crop up over the course of the book, to the point where I genuinely believe that this could have used another editing take. That being said, this should still be considered to be a must have option for many groups, as it offers potent options for defense in a game that is geared too much towards offense. The material herein allows you to create some neat combos and realize complex that are hard to pull off. All in all, a good expansion for Spheres of Power – not as mind-blowing and precise as the chronomancer’s book, for example, but well worth 4 stars.

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!

We begin this supplement with a brief piece of cool flavor, which codifies alien species like reptoids, mi-go, etc. as “Enigmalice” – which is genius. Depending on the threat level and your stance on the species, you could emphasize “enigma”, “malice” or “lice.” This is a really clever neologism that made me smile with glee.

So, what do we get?

Grays can choose from 3 new feats:

-Gray Telepathy: Nets a lashunta’s limited telepathy; may be taken additional times for better telepathy.

-Alien Presence: Nets you frightful presence, activated by 1 Resolve Point. The activation and duration are covered by the universal ability’s default, and 5th level plus Gray Telepathy make for a valid prerequisite array.

-Sleep Paralysis: Builds on Improved Gray Magic (from the first Star Log: Alien Racial Feats-file) nets you the sleep paralysis ability.

Contemplatives can choose Contemplative Telepathy, which is identical with Gray Telepathy. Disappointing.

Drow may choose the Create Darkness feat, which nets the universal creature ability 1/day. The darkness lasts for character level or CR minutes. The feat may be taken twice; the second time, it can be used additional times, with 1 Resolve Point cost for uses beyond the first. Dragonkin of 6th level and beyond can choose Resolute Breath Weapon; after using the breath weapon, roll 1d4. After this result is recorded, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to use the breath weapon again after a number of rounds has elapsed that is equal to the recorded result. Like it! Very strong, but it makes sense to me.

The ikeshti, provided they have at least 3rd level, can spend 1 Resolve Point to use squirt blood an additional time without having to rest. Sarcesian subtype’d creatures of 3rd level or higher can choose Void Soaring and spend 1 Resolve Point to increase the void flyer’s time to function in a vacuum without breathing for a number of hours equal to the level. This time may further be doubled by spending 2 Resolve Points Additionally, the fly speed granted by void flyer increases by +5 ft. at 3rd level, + another 5 ft. for every 2 character levels, capping at 120 ft. in vacuum.

A shobhad with Con 12+ can act normally for 1 + Constitution modifier rounds when using ferocity. Reptoids can use change shape at-will and with an indefinite duration if they take Extended Reptoid Shapechange, which is pretty much what they should have been able to do from the get-go as far as I’m concerned.

Barahthu get the most out of this one: Enhanced Barathu Brawling requires Improved Unarmed Strike. When using early stage adaptation, unarmed strikes don’t count as archaic weapons and gain a special weapon specialization equal to 1-1/2x character level. As a nitpick – it’s clear that this is supposed to be added to damage rolls, but RAW, the pdf fails to mention that. Enhanced Barathu Resistance nets you resistance to an energy type equal to your BAB when using early stage adaption. RAW, these two only work for early stage barathus, though, as the ability of the regular one’s feature is called “Adaptation.” This also may be the reason why Greater Barathu Adaptation erroneously references “Improved Barathu Adaptation” as a prerequisite feat; I couldn’t find that one anywhere. The feat allows the barathu to add barbed quills, DR-granting plates, echolocation or a base speed to the array of “early stage adaptation” options – which, once more, is a bit odd, as the grown barathu doesn’t have the ability; the feat may be gained as an alternate class feature a certain levels, and may be taken multiple times.

Urogs can choose the Extended Electroconductor feat that makes semiconductive last for a minute and lets the urog end the trait’s effects as a free action. The pdf also contains 2 new witchwyrd feats, both of which have a minimum level prerequisite of 5th level. Force Bolt Amplification lets you spend 1 Resolve Point to 1d6 +1 + Charisma modifier; the base damage die further increases at higher levels. Improved Absorb Force lets you attempt to absorb force energy from force effects that damages a target or includes you in the AoE as a reaction. The rules here are very complex, and manage to get the different instances done right. A really impressive one.

Goblins get two different feats: Honchohead Screech nets a goblin of 7th level or higher disturbing screech, using character level and key ability modifier to determine save DC. Unstable Tinker lets goblins wielding heavy, longarms, small arms or sniper weapons crafted or repaired add in an overclock switch that may be activated as a move action. This requires an Engineering check, with DC scaling with item levels. On a success, the overclocked weapon is overcharged for 1d12 round, +1 round per 5 beyond the DC. Overcharged weapons deal additional damage, which starts off at +1, and increases to scaling dice at 8th, 12th, 15th and 20th level. After overcharging a weapon thus, it does become broken, though. When you roll a natural 1 with an overcharged weapon, the effect ends immediately, the item is broken, and then is destroyed instead when the ability ends.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a nice piece of artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length.

David N. Ross’ second array of Alien feats has a couple of true gems, but also a couple of minor snafus among the barathu feats. The fact that two of the feats are pretty much identical is also a minor bummer. All in all, I consider this to be a solid offering, and hence will award it 3.5 stars, rounded down by a margin, as there are a couple of pretty basic ones here.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

After a brief piece of introductory prose, we begin with 9 new archetypes. Some of these do btw. come with Spheres of Might-synergy, but if you’re not using that gem of a book, you can still rejoice, as the section provides guidance to remove blended training/martial tradition. The first archetype, the chronomancer symbiat, gets both Time and Warp spheres at first level, or a bonus talent from the sphere if you already have it. This replaces mental powers. Instead of the usual psionics of the class, the chronomancer instead gets the means to teleport up to a light load as a move action, optionally as a swift action if the archetype has Quick Teleport. In the latter case, the chronomancer can only use this quicker teleport when teleporting themselves and up to medium load. While this does not require the expenditure of a standard action, it still consumes a round from the total array of psionic effects. Temporal feedback loop may affect a target within 60 ft. and lock a target on a failed Will-save in or make the target roll twice for most checks, taking the worse result. At 13th and 19th level, the chronomancer can maintain additional feedback loops at a given time, and round-expenditure is properly codified. Warp dodge allows the chronomancer to, as an immediate action add ½ class level (minimum 1) as an untyped bonus to a single saving throw of themselves or an ally within 60 ft.

As soon as 3rd level, the chronomancer can choose an ally within 60 ft, and use the chronomancer’s skill when making a skill check, aid another to assist as a free action and change the target. 10th level makes the ability affect all allies within 60 ft. At 6th level, we get warp edge, which doubles as a +2 circumstance bonus to atk, and a +4 untyped bonus to damage. 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter allow the chronomancer to affect an additional target. This one has a range of 60 ft. 7th level nets temporal accord, a mighty timestream that allows a group within 30 ft. to use the highest initiative roll, adding their own modifiers. Reflex saves may similarly be shared. (Minor complaint: Spell-reference not italicized.) This one is super-potent, and may warrant some scrutiny by GMs, particularly in groups that gravitate towards rocket-launcher-tag gameplay at higher levels or in mythic gameplay. 9th level nets Group Teleport and applies the action economy increases of the teleporting tricks to this. At 11th level, offers a defensive field within 30 ft. that nets a +4 insight bonus to AC and Reflex saves. 16th level nets Improved Haste, and when using haste, the chronomancer may expend two rounds of psionics to grant the target an extra move action, AoO and increase Improved Haste’s bonus, 19th level gets rid of the distance limitations of quite a few of the chronomancer’s options. Instead of 3rd level’s pushed movement, the chronomancer increases the maximum distance traveled via teleport (scales, fyi), and extends the duration of alter time effects.

The second archetype would be the clockstopper gunslinger nets a martial tradition and blended training (Low-Caster, Wisdom as casting and practitioner ability modifier), replacing gunslinger’s dodge, gunslinger initiative, dead shot and lightning reload. The archetype gets class level + Wisdom modifier spell pool, and begins play with the Time sphere. Instead of pistol-whip, we have better reloading while under haste or alter time. Startling shot’s replaced with Leaping Shot Deed or another feat. Instead of slinger’s luck, 15th level nets the Second Chance talent, and the archetype may choose to double alter time’s effects on herself, and this doesn’t require concentration, instead having a scaling CL-based duration. True grit is replaced with atk, damage and save bonuses in addition to haste or alter time’s effects, and these effects also apply versus targets slowed.

The epoch-walker is a soulknife who gets martial tradition and blended training (Low-Caster, Wisdom as casting and practitioner modifier, class level + Wisdom modifier spell points), and gains the Time sphere. Instead of psychic strike, we have inevitable strike, which translates to a circumstance bonus equal to ½ class level to the next attack roll. A target hit or ally touched can be sensed and may be affected by alter time regardless of distance, with Wisdom modifier acting as the cap for the number of such bonds in effect at a given time. The archetype also receives a unique capstone, which makes the bond indefinite in duration and the character auto-resurrect. Surprisingly cool engine twist – as a minor nitpick, it’d have been nice to note that the charge for inevitable strike can be held indefinitely, but as a whole, really neat.

The fracture fighter loses proficiency with heavy armor and tower shields, and thankfully, gets 4 + Int skills per level, with an expanded skill list. Instead of 2nd level, we get expanded number of AoOs, with 5th level and every 3 thereafter expanding that number. These AoOs may be expanded to reroll saves, which is a nice angle. Instead of 6th level’s bonus feat, we get the option to expend AoOs for elite skirmishing. 10th level’s bonus feat allows the fracture to provide Strength or Dexterity-based skill check rerolls in the vicinity (30 ft.), and 14th level’s bonus feat allows for the use of the archetype’s AoOs to negate incoming ones. The archetype also has a potent capstone that allows for the taking of more actions, as a steep AoO-cost. Creative, cool one – like it! (And yes, it’s a power-increase for the fighter, but one that is justified.)

The hasted blade swashbuckler is proficient with simple weapons and light armor and bucklers only, and gets martial tradition and blended training (Low-Caster, Charisma as casting and practitioner modifier, class level + Charisma modifier spell points) and loses panache for the spell pool. The archetype gets the Time sphere and 2nd level offer the chance to retaliate with a free action self-only haste for 2 spell points, replacing charmed life. 3rd level nets a slow-attack synergy instead of swordplay, and 4th level’s bonus feat is replaced with the option to expend an AoO to move half speed while under haste. 15th level nets Improved Haste, including an increased AC and Reflex bonus, and the capstone nets basically a permanent haste, as well as means to resist paralyzed and entangled conditions, etc.

Temporal trapper rangers are proficient with simple weapons, light armor and bucklers and gets a martial tradition and blended training. (Low-Caster, Wisdom as casting and practitioner modifier, class level + Wisdom modifier spell points), and the archetype gets the Time and Trap spheres. (Yep, the archetype does have a non-Spheres of Might-reliant option included). Instead of combat style, 2nd level allows for the combination of Trap effects with alter time at additional spell point expenditure, and woodland stride is replaced with an immediate action chance to modify a Trap sphere’s dart to target a creature with alter self. Whenever a combat style feat’d be gained, the archetype may choose from Trap or Time sphere talents, and the capstone allows for the banishment of trapped targets in temporal stasis. The Time Knight paladin only gets proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and bucklers, and is a Low-Caster using Charisma as casting and practitioner modifier, with class level + Charisma modifier spell points. The archetype gets the Time Sphere and replaces detect evil with detect chronomancy. Aura of courage and aura of faith are replaced with save-bonuses to Time effects, and a disruptive aura that hampers spell/SP-use. The capstone includes a brual timeline-removal smite, and the archetype comes with a proper code of conduct.

Time stalker slayers lose shield proficiency, and get quicker studied target, at the cost of Constitution damage; 13th level’s slayer’s advance is replaced with immunity to negative temporal effects. (minor nitpick: Spell-italicization missed), and the archetype has a custom capstone. Not impressed by this one. The time thief rogue replaces the 2nd level’s talent with the 1/round option to steal time from targets successfully sneak attacked, allowing for action-theft on a failed save, with sneak die progression tied to the action stolen. Interesting! 10th level allows for the theft of lifespans when defeating foes (can’t be kitten’d) and the archetype has a unique capstone. Neat, fun engine tweak.

Beyond these archetypes, we gave a new armiger prowess (missing the bolding of the ability header), and a new hedgewitch tradition – the temporal traveler, who gets Disguise, Knowledge (planes) and Knowledge (history) as class skills, as well as Time sphere as a bonus talent. The tradition nets an insight pool equal to casting ability modifier (minimum 1) and may use these insight points to perform a variety of custom deeds, with insight replenishment based on spending 2+ spell points on a sphere power or class ability, and insight can act as a grit, panache, kismet or luck. Cool tradition. There is also a general secret provided, and fans of the luchador may choose the fast-time pin grapple-enhancer, which, while potent, is balanced with a fatigue cooldown. The book also has two new mageknight mystic combats. Sages (chakra disruptors and infusers) can choose the ponderous touch esotery, adding slow to combat maneuvers; three cool new scholar knacks are included for amateur chronomancy and building on that, and soulknives can learn to deliver magic sphere abilities via their blade. Rogues and slayers can choose a slowing strike, and both luchador and vigilante may choose the temporal shifting social talent that helps you maintain your identities via time compression, reducing time to perform longer checks.

The Time sphere’s haste and slow abilities are updated, with haste now offering optionally for the granting of an AoO, and the latter preventing AoO-use – these render the sphere, particularly in conjunction with the options herein, more interesting. The pdf contains 17 new basic talents, which allow you, for example, to age or restore objects (which has vast utility usefulness) and even rewind their enchantments while concentrating, affect natural healing by quickening it via haste or impeding it via slow…and no, these can’t be cheesed. Debuffing targets with broken time, direct damage via causality, delaying the onset of damage on objects, etc. is cool (with a typo “alliedally” should read “ally”), and there is a means to afflict targets with lethargy (works imho even better with Everyman Gaming’s Sleeping Rules), a means to improve your response time in surprise rounds – some mechanically complex things here. The precision in the details is impressive – there is a talent that provides a crazy prepared means to get inexpensive objects, and in stark contrast to about 90% of such abilities, it can’t be abused. This kind of foresight is impressive indeed. Decelerated time in a burst, storing actions for future use. It is VERY impressive that this one is not broken per se, but the Group Time synergy of this one IS BROKEN AS HELL. It looks like something got lost there. Anyhow, there is a means to generate temporal traps, time cloning – there may be less talents here than in some of these handbooks, but quality trumps quantity, big time. And yeah, there is the means to make (time) effects affect AoEs.

The pdf also contains 7 potent advanced talents, which include instant retraining, retrieval of creatures ejected from the space-time continuum, a means to contact and query a potential future self, and there is a potent option to further enhance the effects of After Image and Eject. The retraining options obviously allow for massive flexibility, so some advice is provided. The two incantations included allow for the transfer of years, and there is a ritual to eject a target from time, until the last one who sealed the banishment in blood vanishes. This oozes narrative potential! We also get the new dream casting tradition, with narcoleptic casting as a new general drawback, and two sphere-specific ones, which prohibit the use of acceleration or deceleration, respectively. The pdf also offers two feats: Spell Capacitor allows you to cast spells into a temporary rift in time, before discharging the held spells simultaneously. This feat is broken and needs to die as written. While the capacitors only last for a minute, this allows you to unleash ridiculous spell-combos in one blast of annihilation. The feat also allows you RAW to unleash the spells and choose targets when you unleash them. There is also a +2 magic item property for staves that works pretty much the same way and allows for the problem to be enhanced even further. This one is really bad and a glaring blemish in this book. Swift Warrior enhances yourself further when alter time’d. (The “benefit”-header is not bolded. There is also a nice trait to sense Time sphere effects and know date and time. The final item is a Store Time chest item, which is neat, but at 10K somewhat underpriced.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting on a rules-language level are extremely precise and impressive for the vast majority of the book. On a formal level, there are a couple of typo/formatting-level glitches here. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, employing a blend of novel and stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Sayre’s expansion of the Time sphere is one of the most impressive books in the whole series, providing some creative angles, some cool options, and offering high-complexity, potent, yet not overbearing options that really make this one stand out, in a thoroughly positive manner. Were it not for the one problematic combo and the imho atrociously broken feat and related item, this’d be a straight 5 star + seal of approval offering, but with their inclusion, I do have to detract from that, settling on 4 stars. There is still too much in this one to deprive it of my seal of approval, though. If you even remotely like the Spheres of Power-system, consider this to be one of the true must-own expansions, in spite of these few blemishes in an otherwise brilliant book. (As an aside, this is my personal favorite Spheres expansion, the few, but serious blunders notwithstanding.)

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This Spheres Apocrypha-installment clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf contains 5 new basic talents: Deep Nature lets you, when you spend a spell point to make geomancing last for a round per CL sans concentration to make that last for 1 minute per caster level instead. (Spirit) instead has that upgraded from 1 minute per caster level to 10 minutes per caster level. Muss Pummel has the (plantlife) tag and nets you more branches when using Pummel, provided you spend another spell point. The other 3 talents are the “lord-talents” for the three themes covered here, and have the appropriate tag. Metallord increases your ore size when using recover ore. Plantlord increases the size category when using pummel, and increases CL for Grow Plants. Waterlord lets you affect twice the amount of targets (size category reference not properly capitalized) with freeze without compromising the ice’s thickness.

The pdf comes with a new nature sphere drawback, which only nets you one base ability from a single geomancing package. Feat-wise, we get Terrain Strider, which nets you +4 to saves vs. Nature sphere talents and effects of ability packages you have. The (Dual Sphere) feat for use with Enhancement, March of the Treants, lets you use pummel in conjunction with making the tree mobile. Cool! Primal Blast is a Destruction sphere crossover, and allows you to use casting ability modifier instead of Strength or Dexterity when using blasts that correspond to your geomancing ability packages. A handy table is included.

Finally, this pdf contains two new spellcrafted spells, both of which clock in at 2 spell points as the cost. Hydrate (spirit, water) lets you heal untyped dehydration nonlethal damage, and may be used to harm fire critters - cool! Tree perch (plant, geomancing) requires loose sand or dirt and lets you spontaneously create a massive pine tree with branches space perfectly for climbing. Neat!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length.

Derfael Oliveira’s expansion for these spheres this time around has quite a bunch of cool tricks – well worth getting for the low asking price. 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 Spheres Apocrypha-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf, as would be expected, does come with rules for the air package, which has 3 basic features – conjuring a breeze requires concentration and air, instantaneous gusts of wind, and finally, air purification, which works with dangerous vapours, but not in e.g. a vacuum – some sort of gas needs to be there. This is interesting in as much as it changes how deadly gasses can be in Pathfinder, offering an option that is pretty rare in the vanilla game from the get-go. As a minor nitpick: The subheaders for these are only italicized, when in the main book, they were also bolded. It should be noted that air manipulation becomes difficult when strong winds and weather effects abound, providing sample MSDs for different wind-strengths and clarifying that this doesn’t dispel weather effects. As another nitpick, there are a few spell-references that aren’t italicized properly.

As is to be expected, we get some updates for content: Imbue with Nature (Destroyer’s Handbook) can now yield the geomancing package and air blasts; if you have the Divination sphere, you may use Divine Elements to note the presence of breathable air, toxic gasses, etc.; the Nature Barrier from the Geomancer’s Handbook may be used to create mist/cloud barriers, and Zoetic Geomancy may make Geomancy-born air elementals (formatting slightly weird, but that’s just aesthetics). Finally, and I got a huge smile out of that, the Prodigy class from Champions of the Spheres gets an expansion for Imbue Sequence (Nature), allowing for AC-bonuses vs. ranged attacks. The pdf also includes a recap/summary of Nature Sight, differentiating between cloudsight, metalsight, etc., based on package. As an aside: It’d have been nice to see a wind warrior update.

The pdf also features 11 talents: Absorbing Inhalation (air, spirit), allows you to inhale harmlessly and completely smoke, mist, and similar gasses, with proper rules for inhaling magical gasses, and may hold your breath, keeping it inside; then, you can exhale the cloud in a massive 60 ft.-cone. While the talent accounts for the case of inhaling gaseous creatures, it, alas, does not state what happens when you exhale them, where they’re positioned, etc. Additionally, this lets you make small clouds pretty massive cones, and it doesn’t specify how this interacts with the duration, if any of the respective cloud-effect. So yeah, cool visuals, but flawed execution.

Air Ball, also tagged as (air, spirit), allows you to become basically a hovercraft character – while you can’t cross deep liquids with it, it makes tracking you harder. Air Geyser (air geomancing) flings a target into the air on a failed save. Air Leap (air) enhances your jumps (with the option to expend spell points); Air Support (air, Spirit) lets you temporarily increase or decrease movement speed for a spell point. Airlord (air) helps dealing with winds in severe weather. Buffeting Winds (air, geomancing) allows you to spend spell points as an immediate action to counter attacks, granting a deflection bonus to AC, miss chance vs. ranged attacks, and moderate fortification. Create Air (air, geomancing) does what it says on the tin, and so does Feather Fall. Steal Breath (air, geomancing) forces the target to hold their breath (double the number of rounds lost, and actions eliminate quite a few rounds of breath…). Problem: This is a concentration effect, and while Fortitude negates, it doesn’t state whether this ends the entirety of the effect, or just allows for one use of an ability that would require breath. I assume so, but yeah. Wind Blades (air, geomancing) is cool: It creates a cloud of winds that requires a Fortitude save or take slashing damage from movement in the area, with higher wind speeds increasing the damage caused.

The pdf also features the Whispering Wind (air, geomancing) advanced talent, which, as you might have expected, does pretty much what it says on the tin, delivering a short message within 1 mile per caster level.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language level. Considering the brevity of the pdf, there are a few more snafus than I expected. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no artwork or bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Derfael Oliveira delivers a pretty neat and inexpensive expansion for geomancers, one that adds a component I considered puzzling in its absence – I do like this pdf and think that the nature package is a great expansion for the sphere. On the other hand, the pdf does sport a couple of issues, and particularly the supremely cool, but flawed Absorbing Inhalation could use some clarification. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down; a mixed bag on the positive side of things.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This Everyman Mini-installment clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is a transposed creature? Well, for one, it’s a CR +1 template you can apply to your critters. The creature gets AC +1, blindsight 60 ft. and planar sense, which extends the sight of the creature beyond adjacent planar borders, allowing the creature, for example, see from the material plane into the shadow plane’s twisted reflection and vice versa. These creatures also get +2 Str, Dex, Con and Wis, and the Dimensional Agility, Dimensional Assault, Dimensional Dervish, Dimensional Maneuvers and Dimensional Savant feats. Beyond these significant tricks, these creatures gain psychic magic, with PE equal to 5 + double HD + highest mental ability score modifier. 4 PE may be used dimension door, and ethereal, plane of shadow and material plane may be plane shifted to for 4 PE, with CL equal to HD. These creatures can btw. plane shift with one touched target. Transposed creatures have an ability to ignore dimensional lockdown effects via successful Will-saves, with a default save for usually save-less effects provided. Additionally, whenever a transposed creature plane shifts, it leaves a short-lived wormhole that decreases swiftly in size, but allows allies of abductees to give chase. Nice! Finally, these creatures can use their plane shift more efficiently while grappling targets!

The sample creature provided would be a CR 11 transposed gug that is quite deadly…and a good choice for the abduction/dimensional kidnapper horror-angle.

Beyond that, the pdf also includes a new animal companion archetype, the dimensional drifter: These companions add Dimensional Agility to their list of bonus feats, using the master’s level as BAB-substitute for feats building on it. The companion gets a psychic reservoir equal to 3 + master’s level. They can spend 1 point as part of a move action or withdraw action to move 10 feet per level (I assume, of the master, but that is nitpickery) to any location they can see, treating this as 5 ft. movement. This may only be used once per round and don’t provoke AoOs. Serving as a mount allows for riders to be brought along, but this costs +1 point. This replaces share spells. At 3rd level, instead of evasion, they need to spend 1 point from the reservoir to gain its benefits. At 15th level, this upgrades to improved evasion being temporarily gained. 9th level replaces multiattack with the ability to, as a move action that consumes 2 points from the reservoir to dimension door. (Spell reference not italicized properly.) They can bring creatures along for +2 points per creature and this counts as abundant step for prerequisite purposes. Instead of improved evasion, 15th level nets the option to spend 4 points to use plane shift, as the spell.

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

Alexander Augunas’ transpositional creatures are unique – the template and companion archetype are distinctly high-fantasy in an evocative way – phasing, Okami-style spirit wolf companion? Heck yeah! Nasty, wormhole-leaving abductors or even, allies that show the PCs the planar distortions in a dungeon that has different iterations, Legacy of Kain-style? Oh yeah! This has potential galore, and even though CR +1 is perhaps a bit low, as a whole, this is a resounding success. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to being closer to 5, and this does get my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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***( )( )

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

On the introduction-page, we have a new metamagic feat, the Double-Crossing Spell: At +2 level adjustment and a requirement of 1 rank Bluff. The spell gets the ruse descriptor and you get to choose a spell you’ve prepared (prepared casters) or know (spontaneous casters) from the same class (as an aside – it might have been prudent to refer to the spell list instead…) and Bluff vs. the target’s Sense Motive. If you succeed, you cast the chosen spell on the target (who foregoes a save – that should probably only apply to certain spells), expending the spell or spell slot as normal. Then, as a standard action, you can end that effect and cause the target to be affected by the true spell. (Here, also, somewhat confusingly, referred to once more as “chosen” spell.) Such a spell can btw. only affect a single target. Otherwise, the feat is codified in a more precise manner, but yeah, bit rough.

Onwards to the spells, which btw. account for ACG and Occult Adventures classes. For kitsune, we have three spells: At 4th level for bard, medium, psychic, shaman, sorc/wiz, spiritualists and witches, swap appearance alter selfs you and the target, swapping physical ability scores, age categories, etc. Nice. Swear to secrecy is 2nd level for bard and mesmerist, 3rd for psychic and sorcerer/wizard as well as witch, requires a 1 minute casting time and makes all swear to a service all carry out, an activity to undertake or avoid, and get a ring focus component. These rings go off when the condition is violated. LOVE this. Pure storytelling gold. Unremarkable mien is second level for bard and mesmerist, 3rd for psychic and sorcerer/wizard makes it hard for creatures to recall you with identifying information.

The pdf has 3 nagaji spells – crushing coils is 3rd level at sorcerer/wizard and psychic, 2nd level bloodrager, magus and spiritualist, and manifests writhing, crushing serpents that inflict force damage around a single target, with Escape Artist as a means to escape. At 6th level for magi and spiritualists, 7th level for full casters, we have a mass version…which is obtuse. “In addition, the coils deal 4d6 force damage on a failed Reflex save or Escape Artist check. Okay, so is that in addition to the base spell’s damage? The base spell has Reflex negates, then only the means to escape via Escape Artist – should the base spell allow for Reflex saves to end it? If not, why can the mass version suddenly be ended by Reflex saves? Submission clocks in at 4th level for mesmerist and bard, 5th for shaman, sorcerer/wizard and witch, and is a mighty compulsion that uses a diamond studded collar that renders the target your charmed friend – sans the usual means wherein danger can end the effect pretty quickly, and instead focusing on the collar as the center of magic. Like it.

Samsarans get two new spells – Gainsay death is 1st level for bard, cleric, druid, inquisitor, medium, spiritualist and witch, and provides a +2 morale bonus to saves vs. death and associated attacks. This extends to the “special abilities of undead” – which is a wobbly, but I’ll play. Here’s the issue: When the subject is under the influence of one or more such effects, the spell suppresses these. It is evident that this should be fashioned after death ward (reference not properly italicized), but as written, it could be read to offset blood drain, a lich’s paralyzing touch, etc. *sigh* Timely recollection is a 2nd level spell for bard, medium, mesmerist and psychic – it’s an immediate action spell that allows you to add ½ caster level to a skill check you’d fail, drawing upon old lives or teachers.

The pdf also features two spells designated for the wayang: Dark oubliette is a 4th level spell for cleric, psychic, shaman, sorcerer/wizard and witch, and is basically a save-or-suck spell that puts you in a dark, extraplanar hole on a failed Will-save. No, you can’t Int-check your behind out of it, which makes this level 4 spell, if the target fails the save (maze, in contrast, has none) better than maze in all but duration, which is only 1/round per level. Fun fact: The oubliette actually conceals you from divination, so now, your wizard buddy can’t plane shift you simply back out. Yeah, I consider this to be a) not fun, and b) OP. Steal shadow is 6th level for clerics, shamans, sorcerer/wizard, witch, 5th for the occultist and magus, and 4th for the medium. Ranged touch attack, Charisma damage. After that, for one round per level, the target must save when casting spells, using supernatural or spell-like abilities or have them fail; this save is penalized by -4 if the attempted actions have the shadow descriptor. Which supernatural abilities can’t have, but that’s a nitpick.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are still good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf is a bit less refined than what I’m accustomed to seeing from Everyman gaming. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length.

So, Matt Morris’ dynastic spells did not impress me for the most part; Submission and swear to secrecy are nice, but having seen as many spells as I have over the years, I wasn’t too blown away by any of the other spells within, and at this brevity, the spells needed to rock. Some also have some hiccups in the rules-language, making this, overall, an okay little booklet. That being said, competition among spell books is fierce, and there are a ton of truly excellent ones out there, and in comparison, this feels a bit underwhelming. Hence, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This mythic plug-in clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages introduction/how to use, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, though it should be noted that there is a ton of information crammed into these pages.

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

So, turns out that not all heroes gain their mythic power by their own deeds and might; some achieve their potent powers by means of Faustian bargains, oaths of fealty and the like – these are the Bound. (So yeah, from good ole’ Faust to Preussler’s Krabat to Arthur’s knights, there are plenty examples of folks that could have been Bound.) The main focus here is on clerics, oracles, mediums, shamans, summoners and witches. The path nets 3 bonus hit points per tier and at first tier, gets the bound pact ability, which manifests in one of four abilities, 3 of which may be activated as a swift action. Eldritch wish lets the Bound expend a use of mythic power to cast a spell or SP sans expending the spell slot or prepared spell. Material and focus components must still be provided, and the spell is limited by the spell lists it can be from, and the spell level must be equal to or less than the mythic tier, using mythic tier instead of casting ability modifier to determine DCs, if any. The second ability lets you, when you strike a creature within 30 ft. with an attack, expend a use of mythic power to mark them with a painful brand. The target takes a -1 penalty to all saves for mythic tier rounds, and this penalty increases by 1 at 5th and 10th tier, respectively.

Additionally, once per round when the branded creature takes damage, you may increase the damage caused as a free action by your mythic tier. When enhancing your own attacks or effects, you instead increase the damage by 1d6, +1d6 for every 3 tiers after 1st. The bonus damage is not multiplied on a critical hit. Step between, the third ability, allows you to expend a use of mythic power to move up to 50 ft. per tier in any direction, and upon reappearing, you are shrouded in a blur effect, and until the start of your next turn,. You get an attack at your highest BAB, against which the target is considered to be flat-footed. The ability requires line of effect. The wardpact ability may be used as an immediate action, and allows you to curse the originator of a harmful effect or attack that targets you; the penalty of the curse applies to e.g. AC, attack rolls, CL checks or concentration, depending on your preference, and the curse lasts for tier round and allows for a Will save to decrease its duration. The penalty increases for every 3 tiers.

The capstone tier ability, true pact, lets you, whenever you target a creature with a spell, SU or SP that requires a Will save, and the target fails the save, you may expend one use of mythic power (here erroneously referred to as “point of mythic power”) to treat the target as under the effects of a geas/quest.

The pdf of course contains a significant array of 1st-tier abilities, which cover a lot of ground, some of which allow for multiple choices: Take e.g. bound aspect, which allows you to choose either the ability to assume a Hyde-like monstrous physique; another choice nets you light and skin covered in scripture that enhances your skills, and a third aspect is one that nets you an idealized version of yourself. All of these share additional tricks that the choices have in common. Zon-Kuthon/kyton-themed characters will love the path ability that nets not only proficiency with whips and spiked chains (and counting as having Weapon Focus for e.g. Whip mastery; spiked chains may be wielded as chains, and the ability also allows for the expenditure of mythic power t enhance properties of the weaponry. Did anyone say “Spawn”?

There is an ability that makes an outsider come to claim your soul when you die (including making them come); there also would be an ability to seal supernatural contracts, and e.g. a cooperative casting trick, the ability to wield cursed items sans being affected by them, the ability to use mythic power to count as an alignment of your choice for the purposes of alignments and effects, making you a moral chameleon. Being a ´dream trader with hollow dreamscapes, transferring wounds, exorcisms, brief flashes of tapping into omniscience…and there is one that makes you appear as a headless horseman. Do you notice something? Yeah, the themes this time around are distinctly and strongly geared towards both dark fantasy and occult themes. The abilities, from looking like a reincarnated hero to the aforementioned array, do provide a surprising amount of narrative options. You’ll be hard-pressed to find even a single path ability herein that doesn’t have some compelling ad potentially inspiring angle. Of course, mythic companions and hexes and mechanical tricks like that are included as well. Did I mention the one that makes you a dislocated relic of a bygone age, Out of Time? From a roleplaying perspective, this really kicks it up a notch, even in contrast to other mythic paths presented by Legendary Games so far.

There would also be patron-related stuff, the ability to convert targets to your cause (including vow-engine synergy and e.g. Vow of Obedience/Truth reprints), the ability to use stigmata…you’re starting to see what I mean, right?

Among the 3rd tier abilities, we can find a really cool one – a free action ability that allows you to forge a retributive bond with adversaries, allowing you to counter mythic power expenditure! Very cool! Retributive curse strikes, flight, temporary hit point shields and more may be found here. (As an aside – there are a few more of the erroneous mythic point-references among the abilities – not many, and they’re purely cosmetic, but yeah.). Eye of vengeance ties in with judgments, and allows for retributive gazing through defenses and illusions, assuming negative conditions on allies, sin-eater style, the ability to alter binding agreements (OHHH, NASTY!)…and did I mention the headless horseman upgrade that lets you go full-blown Ghost rider? Oh yeah! What about the ability that lets you revive from the dead after a few years, also passing a hereditary curse on those that harmed you? Now this is some “cackle with glee”-material! Cool and creepy in a subtle manner – there is also the option to purify targets…first of diseases and the like, and then, of genetic impurities…which can have some genuinely disturbing repercussions in the hands of zealots…

The 6th level path abilities include forging a minor artifact, the potential for mythic power theft, imbuing companions with mythic power…and what about using multiple uses f mythic power to defy destiny itself? Low-level SP infinite spellcasting is per se nice, but should specify that it doesn’t cover all types of spells…otherwise we have an unrepentant infinite healing option here. Granted, 6th tier…but still.

The pdf also includes 3 different mythic flaws (one of which ties in with the corruption-engine) and then goes on to present mythic patronage rules: With the Mythic Patron feat (, yep, included, not capitalized properly), there is an option to bestow tiers on targets, receive them, and the rules for reclaiming mythic power is similarly concisely presented. So yeah, if you wanted to be Arthur and have your own champions – there you go!. This part of the engine is also supplemented by a 3rd-tier universal ability (to call protégés that you bestowed mythic power upon), and a trickster ability for blinking.

The final page offers some pieces of advice and suggestions for rewarding bound builds.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-integrity side of things; on a formal level, there are a couple of aesthetic deviations, with only rarely something negatively (and admittedly, circumstantially) influencing the integrity of the game. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf uses a mixture of new full color artwork and pieces that Legendary Games-fans will be familiar with. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jason Nelson, Robert Brookes, David N. Ross, Clinton J. Boomer – with these stars among designers, it should come as no surprise that I consider this mythic path the by far coolest one released so far. With a deft focus of blending high-concept, cool abilities with relevant rules, the Path of the Bound could, on its own, arguably can carry a whole campaign. The mythic patronage section may be worth getting this all on its own – I could picture e.g. such mythic pacts as the sole source of magic in an otherwise gritty rare/low fantasy world, or as a central leitmotif for an occult/horror campaign. I love this supplement to bits. While I probably should round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars, I just can’t bring myself to doing so. The abilities are simply too evocative, too amazing and inspiring. Hence, my final verdict will round up, and yes, this does get my seal of approval – highly recommended if your aesthetic preferences are even remotely close to mine!

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This mythic path clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of how to use/introduction, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, though, as always, it should be noted that there is a lot of content per page.

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

All right, the mystic path is specifically geared towards use with the occult classes, as well as characters like shaman and witch and characters inclined towards the occult. The mythic path nets 3 hit points per tier, and the mythic path starts off with presenting a choice between 4 different base abilities: Three of them may be activated as a swift action- compelling influence lets you expend mythic power to enhance your social skills with a number of creatures dependent on tier. Kinetic barrage allows for a simple blast sans infusions – this doesn’t provoke AoOs and you get tier to your BAB. This bonus blast, to warrant the mythic power expenditure, bypasses DR and energy resistances; nonmythic targets don’t even get the benefits of energy immunity. The third one allows for the casting of psychic spells sans spell slot or spell prepared expenditure; it must be of a spell level you know, but don’t have to have the spell prepared or known; CL is +2 for the purposes of level-dependent effects. The fourth ability can be used as an immediate action, and nets you reflexive incorporeal state and DR 10/epic. Cool ones!

The capstone is the same geas/quest trick the Path of the Bound has – including the mythic point guffaw. All right, but we’re here for the path abilities, right? Adamantine mind may be found alongside e.g. the ability to enhance the protection/magic circle tricks that make them binding traps – occultists will like this. They will like even more the ability to reassign points of mental focus imbued in implements. Speak with haunts plus being able to call upon spirits sans being in the right locale will be super helpful for mediums, and there is an option to tap into and form a collective unconsciousness that acts a bit like a collective, including the mythic power-based for the transfer of e.g. mesmerist tricks, phrenic pool points and the like – and yes, this has the rules precision to avoid being easily cheesed. The ability to wield cursed items from the Path of the Bound makes its appearance here as well. The pdf does include a path ability that nets you a crazy-prepared ability, including means to carry more and conceal items – alas, the ability does not have the caveat to make it impossible to retrieve specific items like keys for a particular lock, etc.

Kineticists can choose a second element, but you only get the element’s simple blast and basic utility wild talent. Furthermore, non-instantaneous kineticist abilities can be made harder to dispel. Exorcism makes a return alongside the archmage’s flash of omniscience. Forbidden writings is pretty cool, in that it nets you access to a whole assortment of Linguistics-themed SPs (italicizations missing); a couple of path abilities interact rather nicely with haunts et al. Better insight bonuses, fast power gathering, better defenses for the spiritualist’s phantom and more straight mythic upgrades for occult class features may be found as well. Did I mention more occult skill unlock uses per day, or the ability that allows for the synergy of occult class abilities and mythic abilities. Second chances after blundered social skill use, critical hit retribution and getting abilities from paths that correspond with the respective spirits may also be found. A better, spontaneous memory sharing option can also be found here.

The 3rd tier abilities include the ability to shut off your mind from madness, which is amazing – it is potent, but also makes it impossible for you to perceive e.g. critters with the [mythos] descriptor or similarly disturbing monstrosities. Being able to act in a time stop is also possible (italicization of spell reference missing, though), as is being a member of a well-connected esoteric order. Combining power gathering with elemental body that increases in potency depending on the number of rounds gathering, being anathema to ghosts and the like …and what about better chakra use, or gaining at-will SPs while near haunts…what about using garish appearances to draw attention, or being expert counterfeiters, two angles particularly mesmerists will like? There also is a means to specialize in psychic duels, switching spirits, splitting phantom between manifested and in the consciousness…some neat ones here.

Among the 6th tier abilities, there would be the means to use mythic power to negate the effects of failed mind-affecting effects, but it makes you controlled by the mythic patron. Odd here: The mystic doesn’t necessarily have a mythic patron, so this may come off as a bit confused. There is an ability to use telekinetic powers to use rock catching/throwing. Kineticists can learn to become living blasts of searing energy, while another ability allows for the transformation into pure thought, explicitly bypassing teleportation hindrance. The path also has an ability that lets you create a spiritual echo to take the brunt of an attack and redirect this.

The pdf concludes with a page of build/concept-advice pieces that help use this path.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, but not as tight as usual for Legendary Games – there are more hiccups in italicized components that aren’t, etc., than I’d care to see. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with full color artwork, some of which is new, while other pieces will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. Baffling: The pdf lacks bookmarks, which is a serious comfort-detriment for a book of this density.

Jason Nelson, Robert Brookes and David N. Ross are veterans that know what they do – the book manages to juggle highly complex concepts, and while more mechanic in the focus than the excellent Path of the Bound, the mystic will be a path that occult classes will certainly embrace. That being said, on a formal level, the pdf is a bit rushed, less refined than usual. The amount of missed italicizations is somewhat jarring, and the lack of bookmarks is baffling. Don’t get wrong – the rules integrity is still far beyond the average, and ultimately, it is what makes me round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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**( )( )( )

This massive book clocks in at 127 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 122 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

After a brief introduction and in-character prose, we are thrust into CO-4E, the Mecha Entertainment Capital, also known by its proper name Aridia. The sun-system, which features a colossal rock belt and notes about sun size, notes on moon presence and distance etc., generates a nice introduction to the region – though one that sports a couple of typo-level glitches in the descriptions of the respective movers and shakers. Still, this is a nice start – particularly considering the nice full-color map of the star system.

There is a significant difference between power armor and mechas – and the pdf states that mechas can scale up in size to Colossal starship! On the other hand, power armor is supposed to increase up to Small starship size. A note: Size categories in SFRPG are capitalized. There is another thing that kinda struck me as odd: SFRPG RAW has no power armor. Just powered armor. There’s a difference there. Anyway, this pdf refers to power armor, and suggests, when using them in conjunction with mecha, to treat them as an armor category beyond heavy…which the SFRPG rules already do for powered armors. So yeah, this generates a bit of unnecessary confusion, when the book actually does use the powered armor rules…it just mislabels them as “power armor”. (And yes, this is a nitpick, but it really is confusing in the beginning.)

After this, we’re introduced to mechas: Mechas behave akin to starships, and have 4 firing arcs – forward, aft, left and right arm- Standard mecha do not have turrets, and two weapons may be mounted on each of the arms – these automatically count as linked when fired at the same target. Mechas require one “turn per size” to enter and activate– that should be one round per size category, or per point value associated with the size category. It may be hacked with Computers (erroneously called “Computer”) and gets rules syntax rather wrong: This immobilizer requires a Computer skill of DC30 + (security features + tier of mecha). You can’t have a Computer skill of DC 30 + anything; you can make a Computers skill check against a DC. It’s clear what’s meant, but deviations from proper rules verbiage like this compound and add up and require some firm understanding of the system – otherwise they can, quite needlessly, I might add, become confusing.

Piloting can be used to pilot mechas, and the pdf mentions three specific Professions: Mecha Pilot, Mecha Technician, Stable Gofer. In a pure mecha fighting scenario, one movement is equal to a hex; when used in conjunction with ships, mechas suffer from 1 speed less than them, to represent how ships tend to be more swift – it’s small touch, but one I enjoy. This section also clearly states the necessary abstractions from character to mecha to spaceship regarding movements. These are necessarily quick and dirty, but they do their job without being intrusive.

An important difference: Mechas with a certain maneuverability get autoturn – at the end of the turn, you can choose their facing. The pdf even notes how mecha weapon affects character scale x10 damage, though it’s much harder to hit those small targets – unless it’s specifically designed to be that way. Mechas can carry twice the tier times the mecha size in bulk – I assume this to be the size modifier for them, though the pdf doesn’t state so. Mechas have positions for crew, pilots, gunnery, science and captains, and the respective actions are noted by position: Firing on the move, defensive stances, combat steps, evasive action, forward slide, purposeful full body attack-collisions (less damage for attacking mecha). As an aside: Resolve is capitalized in SFRPG.

The gunnery actions include sniping, which is unlocked at 6th level, and requires that the mecha hasn’t moved - this nets +4 to hit and deals +25% damage versus mecha that have their shields depleted. Why only against mecha? Not sure. It should be mentioned that, while similar to the gunnery position of a starship, sniping, for example, does not require Resolve expenditure, and that there are only 3 actions here. Now, I know, I may sound harsh here – and I frankly am. But the thing is that the rules presented per se? If you can get past the needlessly obtuse deviations from rules-language standard…are actually pretty elegant. You don’t have to relearn a system – this tweaks starship combat to a different medium and does a pretty solid job doing so.

After this, we get a mecha-build checklist – with size and scale (first entry in scale column is not properly aligned with the column’s header). Familiarity with starship rules will make this pretty easy to grasp – we get maneuverability (which denotes speed in hexes), Hull Points, Damage Threshold, Critical Threshold, etc. You select frame, propulsion, packages, weapons, shields and optional features. And then, we get a metric ton of mecha frames: Arachnids/arthropods? Check. Bipedal? Check. Zoomorphic frames? Check. Hover frames? Check. Weapon platforms? Check. Scrapped together mecha? Check.

Engines may include afterburners, wheeled engines, thrusters, etc., and sensors include extra packages for seeing through, blindsight, etc. The engine allows for further customization via mecha packages, which are basically the equivalent of armor upgrades, and shield generators, armor, weaponry , a whole table of hand-held equipment, rules for physical shields, disposable missile pods, a mecha critical effect table….the engine per se is mighty indeed. It feels like the author genuinely cared. I just wished someone had cleaned up the formatting and rules language integrity.

Beyond the mecha-creation engine, we also have a slew of powered armors – pardon, “power armors” by this pdf’s parlance. This section also includes one of my favorite artworks herein, apart from the cover – a shark-like humanoid in a shark-y powered armor. Really neat. There are power armors here that do not replace e.g. the wielder’s Strength, but instead augment it – it’s available in +2, +4 and +6. Plenty of sample power armors are included. The expansion bays, alas, tend to get bonus types wrong, and it is here in the more finicky rules that the lack of precision regarding rules language comes more strongly to the fore. On the interesting side of things, bays that may only be attached to vessels of a certain size? Yeah, makes sense! And from terraformer to mecha bay, these are massive and make sense of big frickin’ vessel.

The third chapter deals with mecha games – think of robot wars and similar classics. We begin with tables for random faction ideologies and alignments, and a brief similar table for resources and staging area are part of the deal. 8 sample factions (all with their custom icon) can be found within. Then, we get some global rules for different arena fight settings, competitions and prize fights.

The world of Aradia is further detailed as well – it comes with a solid map (though I wished it was included in a jpg as well), and then proceeds to note the unique features – acid rain, blades[sic!] ice, etc. The latter states, fyi: “Non-mecha creatures attempting to enter this hazard have to make a DC 10 plus 4 per tier of bladed ice.” No, the rest of the section does not make clearer what the flying f*** we’re supposed to be doing. Damage, further down, is not properly codified. Skills are not capitalized. This collides, painfully, with the per se interesting backdrop and its zones, which btw. come in a massive bunch of archive folders that allow for VTT-use, though assemblage here can be a challenge. A roll20-folder is included. A ginormous space station, with its zones stating mounts, expansion bays, etc. in impressive detail – both as a potentially combat relevant entity, but also as a setting to explore. Building and facility creation is touched upon, and two sample cities – Hopperton and Grimmson, are also provided.

The pdf provides a new class, the Mechaneer, who gets 6 HP, 6 Stamina + Constitution modifier per level, 4 + Int skills per level and he uses Intelligence or Dexterity “as the primary stat.” THERE IS NO SUCH THING IN SFRPG. It’s called key ability score, FFS! Literally one glance at ANY class can show you that. Proficiency includes basic melee, grenades, small arms, light armor and heavy armor. These are NOT capitalized in SFRPG. The class table’s columns and values do not align, making it look like a mess. The class gets ¾ BAB-progression, and uses non-standard save progression – bad idea for a game as tightly wound, math-wise, as SFRPG. The table is missing plusses before the saves and BAB. The class has powered armor/mechas hardcoded into its design, but since the rules-language is so wonky, it’s basically impossible to judge it properly. This issue extends to the 5 themes. “Jink Dance (Level 6) Allows the pilot to increase the Piloting, Gunnery and AC by +2.“ You tell me what that’s supposed to mean; it doesn’t take a seasoned designer to note that this is NOT how rules-language operations work in Starfinder. It looks obvious at first glance, but once you think about it for a second, you’ll realize that you have no idea to what this is supposed to apply.

The equipment section includes mining lasers, modular shelters, armor, weaponry, vehicles (including mecha transporters) etc. The bestiary gets the XP by CR wrong (CR critter with CR 4 XP value), and fails to format defensive properties right: Weaknesses and Immunities are listed separately, not as part of defensive abilities. They also fail to specify type. There is no “crawl” speed. Damage type indicators are missing from attacks. There is no sonar sense. That is handled via blindsense (sound). These errors? They all were just in ONE of the statblocks. Yes, they extend to ALL of them. If you have any standards whatsoever regarding statblock integrity, you’ll skip this chapter.

We close, thankfully, with a better section, namely a massive mecha reference for your convenience, with a ton of premade ones.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are, there is no two ways around that, pretty bad. There are a lot of typos, and the less said about rules-language integrity, the better. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and interior artwork ranges from solid to goofy. Cartography is nice, and the VTT-jpgs are a plus, but assembly help would be nice. A huge no-go for a book of this rules-density, and one that further compounds the primary issues of this book, would be the fact that this has no bookmarks.

Yep. A 100+ pages crunch book sans bookmarks.

I couldn’t believe it either, particularly when Gamer Printshop provided bookmarks in previous offerings.

This is one of the most frustrating books to review that I’ve seen in quite a while. It is painfully evident that Edward Moyer and Katrina Fuchs love what they’re doing. This does not, not for a second, feel phoned in. And in fact, as far as the mecha part is concerned, this is pretty decent. But it comes down to one thing, the issues of this book, beyond obvious glitches that should have been caught by even a cursory glance:

Rules language. The rules language is strangely bipolar: When it comes to starships/mechas, an arguably complex subsystem, it may not be perfect, but it’s something you can use. When we go to the VERY FRICKIN’ BASICS of the game, though? Totally falls apart. The syntax is not correct. The semantics are thoroughly compromised due to the deviations from basic verbiage. Deviations that should have been caught by even a cursory glance at the reference rules. This is almost like the designers actually hadn’t learned the system, just the subsystem for starships. The glitches are also not nitpicks. We’ve been adding plusses in front of BABs and saves since the advent of d20. Heck, I SUCK at doing anything aesthetically pleasing, and I can make a word-table that aligns columns and values properly. How can you screw up walking into a field of damaging stuff? It’s one of the most basic rules operations ever. The bestiary is a train-wreck as well – one that shows that the Alien Archive was obviously not properly consulted. “Large Creature Combatant Array” – the book EXPLAINS how to make critters. I would have understood getting adjustments wrong, but this? That’s critter-design 101, and it has been for…how long…20 or so years? Damn, I’m getting old.

So, the question is: Can you look past the lack of bookmarks, the glaring and pronounced issues of this book? If you can, if you invest the time to polish this, then you’re rewarded with a mighty and pretty neat mecha engine, one that, with the right amount of polish, could have been awesome, could have been a must-own recommendation. But it’ll take TIME and WORK, for, as written, it is mired in an amount of glitches that, no matter how much I want to like the mecha-engine, I can’t let stand.

I wanted to love this so badly; I can see its clearly evident potential. But right now, as written? I can’t rate this higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down. If you’re willing to put in the effort and flex your design muscles, this can be an extremely rough gem, but it’ll need a lot of polishing. More than most folks will be willing to put into it.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This module clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: While this is nominally written for Beginner’s Box-rules, it works perfectly fine with the full PFRPG-rules. As for the age-bracket this is intended for, I’d suggest a starting age of about 8+; depending on how sensitive kids are, it may or may not require older kids: Personally, I consider it to be a kid-friendly module, provided the kids liked e.g. Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings movies, there should be no issues. As for adult players, rest assured that this is perfectly suitable for adults! This is, in short, perfect for family game night, with sidebars offering advice on some scenes throughout the adventure.

The module is situated in the kingdom of Threll, and is intended for a well-rounded 2nd level party.

All righty, this being an adventure-review, the following discussion contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump ahead to the conclusion.

..
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All right, only GMs around? Great! On the side of the Westmarch Moountains opposite from Threll, there is a wild land between the mountains and the Darkvale forest; in this wild region, a half-ogre named Carl has taken control of an array of goblins and gnolls – and his ambitions, his dreams, range further than being a local warlord. He wants a base of operations, dreaming the dream of conquerors, of emperors. This is where the border (-lands) fort Falling Spring Station comes into play.

Too well-defended to be taken by force, the ogre-blooded leader hatched a devious plan, using his goblin druid Groultooth to negotiate with local fey to afflict the humans with a horrid disease, the crumbling sickness, which may only be cured with a special draught. This disease makes the targets take Strength damage (ability score reference once not properly capitalized) and potentially causes confusion-like effects, which obviously does not help defending a fortified structure. (As an aside – this could be used to teach, in a playful manner, how to deal with relatives struck by neuro-degenerative diseases…but I digress.) The vile goblin has, via trickery, managed to place a collar on the fey queen’s daughter, bluffing the fey and thus forcing them to help wreck the defenses of the mortals. It is into this somewhat dire situation that the PCs stumble into: The fort has been struck by the crumbling sickness, and the invisible fey have wrecked all kinds of havoc in their last assault. The overland section is presented in a full-color hex map, and via one of a few hooks, the PCs are tasked to look after Falling Spring Stations and resolve the issues that haunt the place. When they do arrive, they’ll see their work cut out for them – Falling Spring Station burns!

The first encounter already does something clever – a fey-magic concealed pit trap, which, while painful, not likely to be lethal, establishes fey trickery from the get-go, and the fully-mapped station offers a variety of clues for the PCs to unearth. Obviously, the fire will need to be dealt with, and once that’s done, the PCs get a modular array of tasks as they investigate the fort and help the locals deal with the issues – like the need to gather fresh water due to the well being out of commission, a patrol missing, etc. – these tasks are refreshingly nonlinear, and small clues that the PCs can find along the way will help them slowly determine the culprits. Getting the ingredients to heal the crumbling sickness is also part of the deal, btw. During these encounters, the PCs meet a ball-tailed wampus (gorgeously illustrated, fyi), a great cat tricked by fey magics – and like in a good family-oriented module, clever players have a chance to resolve meeting the predator in a variety of non-violent ways. Big plus: Nonviolent combat-resolution is worth MORE XP than simply slaying the critter, thus rewarding compassionate playstyles. Kudos!

Not all encounters may be avoided thus – a violent moss troll, for example, is not asking for quarter, nor is a snallygaster, but then again – this is a fantasy game, and there are bound to be some monsters. A missing patrol has gone completely bonkers and makes for an absurd encounter, considering themselves a weird sort of adventuring hierarchy. The sidebars suggest optionally using meta-commentary when playing them, which can potentially work, depending on your playstyle. Personally, I found that the ridiculous nature of folks considering themselves royalty when clad in rags, acting in a pompous manner, does suffice. The patrol should be returned home subdued and alive, if possible… (As an aside: This encounter, obviously, can be used to teach something about status, behavior patterns, etc.)

At the end of this first section of the module, the PCs should have managed to assemble the evidence collected throughout its sandboxy bits, which clearly points towards the fey – from confronting spring-heeled jack and Jili the grig (lol), the PCs can find fey flowers galore – like “Dazies”. Or Foxglove Flares. AWESOME and yep, these flowers are presented in a concise and fun manner. Did I mention the flying giant fey toad (hilariously illustrated, btw.)? When the PCs manage to get the audience with fey royalty, they’ll be pointed towards aforementioned goblin druid…who is surprisingly pragmatic and unwilling to throw his life away. Clever PCs can make his fess up to his bluff and negotiate getting some information from the goblin. With the fey princess freed, the PCs will receive a banquet in their honor, including the means to ask the fey for their aid, for they may not give it unbidden. (And yes, the read-aloud text does make it VERY obvious when the PCs should ask…)

Now, the goblin’s confessions did include a dire warning – Carl’s legions are approaching, and thus, when the PCs return to Falling Spring Station, they will have time to prepare the fort and fortify it further for the assault of the ogre-kin warlord’s hordes. Suggestions for defensive ideas are provided with suggested sample skills and DCs assigned. Two different (stackable) initial encounters, and a variety of different, secondary ones, the finale is a pretty nice, free-form attack that handles mass combat and the like in the background, without requiring much GM-prowess; in the end, the PCs, of course, will need to stop Carl himself!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting is excellent on a rules-language level, and slightly less refined on a formal one – there are a few typo-level minor hiccups, and e.g. an instance where the blank spaces in one line have been swallowed during layout, but these do not impede the module’s functionality. Layout adheres to the Legendary Beginnings’ series neat two-color full color standard, and the pdf sports a mixture of nice original full-color artwork and a few pieces fans of Legendary Games will already be familiar with. Cartography is a bit of a weak point for the module – while the maps included are nice and full-color, no player-friendly, unlabeled versions are included, which is a bit annoying, considering that the PCs will be spending quite some time there. The module comes fully and properly bookmarked for your convenience.

Brian Suskind and Ben McFarland are both adventure-veterans, and it really shows: This module is modular, non-linear in many aspects, and takes plenty of different PC capabilities into account. It rewards not slaying all foes, while still clearly painting a picture of the bad guys as forces that need to be stopped. Disease is a delicate subject matter, and as such, it is admirable how well the module manages to depict the material, and how it takes topics that would work just as well in a dark fantasy context and portray them as light-hearted. (As an aside: Yes, you can run this as anything ranging from light-hearted, as written, to rather dark – the latter only needs cosmetic reskins regarding the flavor and read-aloud text. I could see this work perfectly in e.g. Kobold Press’ Midgard…)

This adventurer is structurally easily one of the strongest offerings for newer groups, and it achieves its family-friendly tone, without compromising the excitement for veterans – in short, it must be hailed as a resounding success. The only reason this misses my seal of approval would be the absence of player-friendly maps, but this still comes wholeheartedly-recommended by yours truly, at a final verdict of 5 stars. Whether novice or veteran, this is definitely worth a trip!

Endzeitgeist out.


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****( )

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansions clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Let’s start with clarifications and errata: Create Reality receives a modified (shadow) descriptor and all effects are designated as illusion sphere effects, save the Disguise boost; Illusion sphere effects may modify this. Shadowmark is designated as (figment, shadow) and is obviously an Illusion effect. Manipulate aura may be used on areas to create or conceal ambient remnants/evidence of sphere or spell use. The Trick bestowed can only create or hide auras of a CL that is not greater than twice your CL. Manipulate aura is also a (sensory) talent that allows you to change the auras of your illusions, with the same restrictions. Manipulate aura is observed by opposed magic, and as such, a magic skill check is required to negate the effect, though the bonuses True Sight and the like add, also apply to this check.

Okay, this out of the way, let us check out the new archetypes, the first of which would be the operative for the symbiat class, who replaces Knowledge (religion) and Fly with Bluff and Disguise as class skills, and proficiency-wise, the operative gets the chakram, garrote, shuriken and all crossbows in exchange for longsword, shortbow and shields. Instead of mental powers, we get Illusion and War as bonus magical talents (curiously, without the usual caveat wherein preexisting spheres allow for other choices/modified effects), and instead of psionics, we get the logistics ability at 1st level. At 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter, the operative (erroneously called “operator” here) with a bonus magical talent from the Illusion or War spheres, a teamwork feat, a squadron feat or any feat with an Illusion or War sphere talent as a prerequisite. ESP is replaced with ½ class level as a bonus to Perception and Stealth. Pushed movement is modified to become high speed, which is extraordinary and halved, granting only +5 ft per 3 class levels. I assume the maximum value to be still in place, but since it doesn’t come up within the 20-level progression of regular gameplay, no issue. Two minds is replaced at 5th level with always ready which once per round lets the operative use an illusion, trick, totem or mandate as a move action. Additionally, the symbiat may spend 2 spell points as an immediate action, even when flat-footed, to use an Illusion or War effect; during a surprise round, doing so limits you to free actions. Effects thus created, however, only have a maximum duration of 1 round. Instead of greater psionics, we 1/round may use a trick, totem or mandate as a free action, though these still only have a maximum duration of 1 round.

The second archetype within would be the solipsist fey adept, who gets Knowledge (dungeoneering, engineering, history and planes) as class skills, replacing Appraise, Intimidate, Knowledge (local) and Knowledge (nature); Intelligence is used instead of Charisma as governing casting ability modifier. Instead of shadowmark, the solipsist gets introspection, which allows for the expenditure of a shadow point to add a +1d6 surge skill and ability checks, including those where the character takes 10 or 20. Only one use of the ability may affect a given check; introspection for Bluff, Knowledge and Stealth is possible without expending a shadow point, provided the solipsist is trained in the skill. This should probably specify that Bluff checks made to feint are not supposed to be included. Introspection may also be used on attack rolls and saving throws, at the cost of 2 spell points per instance, with the latter being an immediate action. This does come with inspiration synergy. Truesight at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter net an investigator talent, using shadow points instead of the inspiration pool as resources. The archetype gets a custom capstone, an aberration apotheosis and save bonus plus SR vs. divinations. It’s somewhat ironic that the solipsist doesn’t do anything for me.

The pdf also includes a new hedgewitch tradition, umbral. This one nets Disguise, Intimidate and Knowledge (planes) and +172 class level to Stealth and Disguise as the tradition benefit. The tradition power nets a fey adept’s shadowstuff, with casting ability modifier + ½ class level points; this is added to fey adept pool for multiclass characters, which is overkill for multiclass characters. Additionally, this ability does net a surreal feat. So yeah, too dippable in my book. The tradition secrets include a surreal feat, Shadow Magic sans having to meet prerequisites, scaling darkvision that may be enhanced via shadow points to penetrate magical darkness temporarily, or the Extra Shadowstuff feat. Grand secrets include hide in plain sight and a +1 CL for Shadow Magic; the capstone nets a permanent illusion, but fails to specify the action it takes to designate an illusion as such. There is a secret to gain the umbral tradition benefit (skill bonuses) and count as umbral. There is an arsenal trick to add shadow walk and invisible to the weapon enhancement list. There also are 6 new mystic combats: There is one that nets you Shadow Armament (and misses an italicization reference to a weapon property – something that extends to the others as well); one nets you Pierce the Veil and skeptical for a weapon. Another nets you mage Feint and Weirding motion, treating mageknight levels as high-caster levels for Mage Feint. Another nets you Weirding Defense sans prerequisites. Another nets you Weirding Assault and Decoy; you don’t have to meet their prerequisites if you got the aforementioned Mage Feint-granting mystic combat. There also are 5 rogue talents that may also be taken by slayers, unchained rogues, investigators et al. “Dim Mak” (typo?) lets you deal nonlethal damage when a target is denied Dex-mod; being treated as High-caster for glamer concentration, a surreal feat, and another Shadowstuff Armament option may be found. There also is a talent that helps maintain glamers and shapeshifts.

Since we’ve been talking about of these, let’s skip ahead to the rather massive feat-chapter in this one, shall we? The (Surreal) feats introduced herein do require the use of shadowstuff, and all effects generated are (figment, shadow) illusions. Shadow Infusion or create reality uses may be used to pay for their benefits instead of their usual shadow point cost. The first time you take such a featm you gaina shadow pool as a fey adept, equal to the number of surreal feats you have, which stacks with other sources of shadow points. Shadowstuff Armament lets you spend shadow points to create and instantaneously equip items made of shadow stuff. Shadow Magic lets you spend shadow points to grant yourself magic sphere or talents you don’t possess, choosing from a list of spheres, and for every 5 surreal feats you have, you gain an additional talent from the chosen sphere. The effects count as Illusion sphere effects, and use your CL for the sphere minus 2, minimum 1. Only one such effect may be in effect at a given time. The verbiage could be a bit tighter here – while it is clear from the context, the first ability probably should specify requiring prerequisites, since the follow up talents/effects granted for multiple surreal feats does specify the option to stack the new talent/effect on another one bestowed by this feat. There also is an option to grant close-range swift action temporary hit points and scaling DR, and this may be enhanced further. There also is an option for an increased shadowmark range, a feat that lets you make it possible to have a target be attacked versus touch AC. This requires a shadow point and hitting the target with an illusion. Surreal Strike erroneously calls the shadowmark ability shadow mark, and nets you the ability at -4 character level, minimum 1.

Aforementioned Weirding feats? They’re not in the book – instead, “Weird” feats may be found – this should have been caught by a consistency check. These feats build on mage Feint and Decoy; Mage Feint is a basic talent that lets you get three tricks: Use aid another in conjunction with attack and defense regarding targets within illusion range. As a trick, you may force a target to make a Will-save or lose Dexterity modifier to AC, with said trick being treated as a feint for triggering purposes. Thirdly, you can trigger readied actions on a failed Will save. I think the second trick should have a range noted. Decoy, the second talent these feats build on, and is designated as (figment, glamer) and is pretty strong and fun – once more, we have 3 tricks that include 50% miss chance due to a mirror image like double, dispersing doubles and a mirror image like effect, and as a plus, if you have Complex Illusions, you can make these guys move independently. Weird Motion nets you casting ability modifier as a circumstance bonus to AC vs. AoOs when charging or making ranged attacks, and you may combo such an attack with Mage Feint versus the target. Weird Defense allows you to use a swift action to grant you a scaling miss chance as an SP, and Weird Assault nets you the option to suppress copies from Decoy to get temporary spell points that may be used for Mage Feint, and this does interact with Weird Defense. We also get a feat that treats you as interacting with figments and making e.g. shadowmark work as a 10 ft.-reach melee touch that also works for AoOs is interesting.

Not all feats are good. Take Psychosomatic Suffering. “Any damage you deal that is prevented by damage reduction, energy resistance or immunity is instead converted to nonlethal damage.“ WHAT THE F…. This is utterly broken and wrecks the few defenses that work in PF. This needs to die in a fire. Aforementioned Pierce the Veil feat is cool: It lets you incur a penalty to attack to ignore increasing miss chances, though I am not happy with how the math comes out here; I’ll be tweaking that one. The book also contains a variety of Dual Sphere feats, like one that makes your light become a spread that behaves like a gas and may pierce holes, get around corners, etc. On the cool side: You can get an Invisible Friend. Better counterspelling and the like – there are some gems herein as well.

As you could glean from the review’s text so far, this book does codify an array of new descriptors for the Illusion sphere – figment, glamer, sensory, shadow and suppression are tightly defined here. I have a few issues here, though: Shadow effects that cause damage are untyped, which is problematic regarding the global balance of the game. Additionally, disbelieving a (shadow) illusion only has its effectiveness halved in comparison to the regular iteration of an illusion. The book does btw. change a design paradigm in that miss chances can and do stack, with a sidebar explaining the like – which does make sense. As an aside: Hit-chances, the inverse of miss chances, invented by Steven D. Russell back in the day (Rest in Peace, my friend) would have made for a welcome addition to the trickster’s arsenal, but I digress. The talents allow the Illusion users to increase illusion casting time by one step to reduce spell point cost by 1, minimum 0. Hijacking figments, outsourcing concentration to the target, blurring squares, using tricks to reposition – the talents here do feature a ton of cool things that the sphere really, really needed. Did I mention sensory overload? Annoying: There is a talent that causes damage via figments that happens even if the figment is disbelieved and bypasses energy resistance or damage reduction. This should die or get the nerf bat.

The advanced magic section allows for aura suppression via Silence; enhancement of UMD, increase the range of your illusion to VAST distances…and there is one that makes a target save when nonlethal damage you cause is reduced, negated, etc. – and on a successful save, the target is stunned for 1 round, more on a failed save. This allows for stun-locking and even bypasses immunity to the stunned condition. Blergh. Give this one the axe. There also is an option that requires a second save vs. Silence to notice that you’re even under its effects – see, this one is cool. Bypassing line of sight re spell point expenditure when directing your figments? Heck yeah. Adding a spell failure to Blur is nice, but the name is a bit unfortunate: Spell Jamming usually means something else in the context of (A)D&D. The pdf also sports 6 nice new traits and the witchmarked general drawback. 7 sphere-specific drawbacks are provided, and the pdf includes two alternate racial traits for gnomes, tieflings, kitsune and wayangs. The book also features rules for shadow cords that enhance glamers placed on the target, and for stable and unstable shadowstuff. 5 different weapon enhancements can also be found.

Really helpful, and one of the highlights of the book: The “Playing an Illusionist”-section, which gives specific pointers regarding the investigation and interaction with illusions, the interaction with exotic senses (including color blindness, echolocation, etc.). It does something sorely needed, and concisely defines what illusions are. Why do we need that? Well, over the years, we all have been operating under a variety of implicit assumptions that may well generate some dissonance in interpretations etc.. While I may well be mistaken, this is the first time I’ve seen a section in a book really do the work and define what illusions can and can’t do in a holistic manner. The explanation of illusions that create cover or concealment, etc. is, for example, super helpful. This section also provides seriously helpful advice for players and GMs alike. This chapter is a godsend, brilliant and fun, and it certainly should be considered to be required reading for Illusion sphere users, and probably, beyond that. It represents my personal highlight of the book, which I certainly did not expect, and elevates the book from a mixed bag to being one of the handbooks that you definitely must own if you’re using Spheres of Power.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language level; this one feels a bit rushed regarding internal balance and formatting. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, and artworks are a combination of new and stock full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I do not begrudge Darren Smith his task here; the Illusion sphere is one of the hardest to design for, one of the ones that really needed this expansion, and honestly, the expansions regarding descriptors etc. were all overdue and unlock a lot of the things that we all expect from illusions. The focus here on creativity is pretty neat to see, and the book contains an array of creative and fun options, including quite a bunch of highly complex rules-operations. On the same side, however, this does have a couple of rather underwhelming class options/archetypes, and a few options that seriously need a nerf-bat whacking, as there are some options herein that do make illusions better than the real thing; better than any other magic as far as damage is concerned, in fact. The immunity-bypassing and stuff like that should go in a game as strongly geared towards offense as PF, particularly since illusions are some of the best defensive options out there. Emphasizing that aspect further imho would go a long way refining this one. But I’m rambling. All in all, I consider this, mechanically, to be one of the weaker spheres-books regarding its overall formal components. At the same time, it excels in quite a few areas above and beyond what was expected here; there are plenty of talents and feats that I’d consider to be godsends indeed; this has all the tools to be one of the best spheres-expansions in the whole product line, but it needs some careful finetuning to shine as brightly as it should. There are several instances where balancing and details should get some attention, and consistency etc. should also be checked once more. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, and while I’d usually round down, the sheer


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*****

This expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD,1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

We begin this one with a pretty cool poem/ritual chant that can be scavenged for use in game, before diving right into the new archetypes – this time around, we get 4, the first of which would be the weather harvester alchemist, who is a Mid-Caster using Intelligence as casting ability modifier, replacing alchemy, with a spell pool equal to class level + Intelligence modifier (minimum 1), and the archetype gains a magic talent every time caster level increases. This replaces alchemy. Instead of mutagen, we get the Weather sphere as a bonus sphere, or a weather talent if he already has the sphere. At 1st level, we have the create harvester ability, which allows for the creation of magic items that work 1/day. Lacking a prerequisite talent or sphere requires a Spellcraft or Craft check, and the harvester may only be activated by the weather harvester that created it, and only in an area with sufficient weather severity These gizmos have a complexity rating contingent on the minimum weather severity, and activation may be sped up if the harvested weather is more severe than the minimum requirement; this replaces brew potion, and the anti-poison defenses. The archetype, as a whole, is a flavorful tweak on the alchemist engine.

The vajrahasta armorist is proficient with simple weapons as well as light armor and bucklers and gets a Martial Tradition if this is the first level of the character. It should come as no surprise, then, that we have blended training as well. Instead of bound equipment, the archetype gains vajra, a swift action that manifests a weapon of lightning made solid that counts as a thrown weapon with a 20 ft. range increment, inflicting 1d6 piercing and 1d6 electricity damage. The energy damage is part of the weapon damage and is multiplied on a critical hit. The vajra gains a +1 enhancement bonus for every odd class level beyond 1st, and thankfully manages to keep the +5 net bonus cap intact, with special abilities based on bound equipment. Applying a special ability that deals electricity or sonic damage increases damage die size, while that from another elemental energy type decreases die-size by one step. Minor nitpick: This should specify that only the energy damage component is thus modified…or at least, I assume so. Is the piercing damage modified this way as well? Anyhow, vajra is a treated as a bound weapon regarding arsenal tricks, and additional vajra may be manifested at a given time at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. These may all be manifested as part of the same action, but must share their ability loadout. Vajra do not disappear upon leaving the vajrahasta’s hands; instead, they may be recalled as a swift action, and they may not be wielded by other creatures. Kudos: This does specify interaction with e.g. impaling weaponry and such aspects of Spheres of Might. Indeed, instead of 2nd level’s trick, we get the Lancer sphere, or Ranged Impale if the character already has it. Instead of armor training and 4th level’s trick, we get the Weather sphere and one (shroud) talent at 3rd level and the Localized Weather drawback. Targets impaled by the vajra may be affected with shrouds via spell point expenditure, requiring no concentration. The archetype does come with a unique anchoring trick. I love the flavor of this one! Cool!

The wendigo bloodrager gets simple weapon, light armor and buckler proficiency, and, as expected, gets a martial tradition f this is the 1st level of the character. The wendigo is a Low-Caster using Charisma as casting ability modifier and a spell pool of class level + Charisma modifier. The archetype, unsurprisingly, gets blended training. Instead of bloodline and bloodline power, we start the game with a properly codified bite attack (base damage value for Small characters included); 2nd level replaces uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge with snow strider, free, trailless movement through snow; at 5th level, the character no longer needs to make Acrobatics checks on ice and becomes faster on snow, ice, etc. At 3rd level, all bloodline feats are replaced with a famine aura that has its save DC governed by Charisma; it imposes the fatigued condition, with duration scaling and a hex-caveat to prevent abuse; this later upgrades to imposing the exhausted condition, and the wendigo may exempt allies from the aura at the start of the day. 4th level nets the ravenous spirit ability that allows for the immediate action spell point use to add a nonlethal cold damage –inflicting soul devouring of targets close to those hit by his bites, gaining temporary hit points, with 12th and 18th level increasing the number of targets affected. While not super-easy to abuse, this is missing an important caveat, namely that the temporary hit points gained should correlate to actual damage caused. Otherwise, wendigos will have a pretty good reason to carry kittens around to replenish their temporary hit point shield. 8th level allows for limited and uncheesable spell point replenishing via the eating of incoming magic, replacing 8th and 16th level’s respective bloodline powers. 11th level makes bloodrage also come with a ferocious aura of cold, and as a capstone, he can move this cold, which is really cool (haha) but something I wished the class got sooner!

The skald may opt for the storm herald archetype has a clarification/limitation on proficiencies, but remains compatible with other archetypes, and is a Charisma-using Mid-Caster with a class level + Charisma modifier spell pool, and a new magic talent every time he gains a caster level. The skald replaces well-versed and scribe scroll with the Weather sphere and their choice of Rain, Storm or Wind Lord and a modified version of the Focused Weather drawback, which prevents the decrease of the severity level of Wind and Precipitation, which may be affected. The archetype uses class level for CL for the Weather sphere and properly specifies interaction with preexisting drawbacks/sphere/etc. The archetype’s voice may bypass the noise of precipitation and wind and 1st, 4th and 14th level yield unique raging songs that have a storm theme. The uncanny dodge ability and its improved brethren are replaced with a static insight bonus to AC and Reflex saves of +4, which increases to +6 at 8th level. Instead of spell kenning, we get a sphere-specific variant that has limited daily uses, and 9th level’s rage power and damage reduction are replaced with scaling resistance to electricity and sonic damage that culminate in immunity – which btw. may be shared with allies, though immunity is only shared as resistance 30.

The pdf also contains the tempest-tost hedgewitch tradition, which nets Knowledge (nature), Perception and Survival as class skills and the Weather sphere plus a bonus talent as a tradition benefit. This one is really exciting: As tempestuous as the strormwinds, these hedgewitches are in one of three states, randomly-determined after resting. The state may similarly change whenever the hedgewitch is subjected to a natural 20 attack, fails a save or regains consciousness. The states are nebulous, thunderous and tempestuous; nebulous helps with weather control and precipitation, and lets you see through mist and carry fog banks with you; in the tempestuous state, we have Telekinesis tricks to represent the stormwinds, and the thunderous state enhances electricity and sonic damage. The capstone, btw., allows you to 1/day enter all states at once, and the secrets and grand secrets provided are cool, even though the latter uses stalwart, which is an ability I was never fond of. That being said, being locked as a grand secret and contingent on a state, I’m good with it. I love this one! The section is complemented by a new arsenal trick (special weapon abilities not properly formatted), rage power (again, with an obvious formatting glitch) and two general hedgewitch secrets.

The basic magic section introduces three weather categories (aridity, ash and vog) in 7 severities and two new talent types: (Mantle) talents lets you bestow, as a standard action that requires touching the target, bestow a mantle on a target, and their effects tend to be contingent on the weather. (Shrouds) let you place a shroud on a single creature as a standard action within weather control range, and persist as long as the caster concentrates; alternatively, a spell point expenditure allows for the effect to last for 1 round per CL sans concentration. Multiple shrouds of the same weather type and shroud + weather interact, depending on the weather.

And yes, this means that Weather actually has unique engine components now that help make the sphere more relevant without a ton of advance preparation, though the like obviously is still rewarded. The talents also include some seriously cool tricks, like using wind in arid areas to create dry lightning, targeting more creatures with shrouds and maintaining more of them at once. The mantle talents (handily listed in their own subsection, 20 mantle talents in total) allow the Weather use to employ mirages or mists for defense, adding slashing damage to unarmed attacks,help you Escape Artist/get out of grapples, etc.

The section also has 16 different (shrouds), which can e.g. make creatures treat targets beyond 30 ft. as having concealment, making targets fall, make the target cause electricity damage to allies – pretty cool! Minor complaint: I’d have been nice to have e.g. Galre have an Illumination sphere synergy. Hilarious: Make the target be followed by a personal thundercloud that periodically strikes the target with bolts of electricity. The pdf also features a total of 15 different advanced talents that include several “XYZ Lord” talents that allow for specializations for certain weathers, like cold, Aridity etc. Wind specialization, precisely plotting the course of tornados, etc. – the material herein lets you emulate the X-men’s Storm.

The incantation included is none other than the 9th level Fimbulvinter, which must be recited during a war (it’s, after all - skeggjöld, skálmöld, skildir 'ru klofnir, vindöld, vargöld, áðr veröld steypisk;) over 8 days and requires a massive menhir; the mighty incantation expands cold and boosts the power and aggression of predatory animals…Nice one! And, if unchecked it will eventually encompass all the plane, so yeah, sufficiently apocalyptic.

The pdf does include 5 different alternate racial traits (including one for Skybourne’s fenghuang) that allow for Weather access and e.g. adaptation to the like. The pdf does include 9 feats, which include an Enhancement crossover (Dual Sphere) feat that lets you animate a tornado (and even gain a tornado companion!!); an (admixture) feat lets you combo (shrouds) instead of a second blast type, and some specialization to make (mantle)s less contingent on surrounding weather can also be found. Oh, and obviously better air vehicle use! The book also sports two solid traits (one of which nets you a skyrider vehicle (stats included!), a new casting tradition boon and three sphere-specific drawbacks. (Those that grant feats clarify how they may be bought off.) The pdf also features new equipment for buildings (lightning rods & storm shelters), and there are 3 new weapon special abilities that interact with the weather severity engine; there also are two unique items, and they are per se neat, but their formatting sports quite a few formal glitches.

The book also sports a bestiary section, which includes CR 2 cloud sprites, the CR 4 dewdrop fairy swarm, as well as the meteorological creature template – and finally, a page of GM advice for dealing with the situationally significant impact of dedicated Weather specialists.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, but less impressive on a formal level; this could have used a bit more finetuning regarding formatting etc. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and features a blend of stock and original artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Collins delivers an expansion I did not expect to like as much as I did. The archetypes are genuinely interesting; the supplemental material allows Weather users to contribute in more scenes, and as a whole, a prepared Weather specialist is frightening indeed. This situational, and sometimes out of control of the player, power is still impressive, but doesn’t necessarily become overbearing. The expansion for the sphere, as a whole, can be considered to be a success, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. And since I really enjoyed quite a few of the components herein, I will also bestow my seal of approval on this expansion.

Endzeitgeist out.


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