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An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This module clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page backer-thanks, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 50 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5)so let’s take a look!
This adventure is intended for a group of characters level 1 – 2, and one could argue that pretty much any party composition could be capable of besting it. In fact, this module could, theoretically, be run for a single character, but I’ll elaborate on that later. The ruleset used would be, no surprise there, LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), but, as always, translation to other old-school systems is pretty easy.
As far as difficulty is concerned, this may be one of the more forgiving LotFP-modules; in fact, I’d argue that it is one of the fairest, perhaps the fairest of the LotFP-modules. Save or suck, whether earned or not, or the like does not greatly influence the design-paradigm employed within. Instead, this is very much an adventure, where the greed of the PCs and players ultimately determines the difficulty and consequences of the adventure. It should be noted that the adventure has fallout potential that can change the course of campaigns, but more on that later.
My review is primarily based on the softcover of the module; one of my patreons donated the funds to acquire it for the purpose of a review at my convenience. I chose this time of the year for obvious reasons – this is a unique change of pace as far as horror-adventures are concerned.
I also own the pdf, and while the pdf is layered, there is, alas, no option to render the maps player-friendly, i.e. get rid of the keys denoting keyed encounters or the like. That being said, handing out a map to the players, in this instance, would be super counter-productive due to the whole angle of the adventure, so this, for once, gets a pass in that regard. The map does note places where the structures are instable and can be collapsed for brief respites from the threats within. More on that later. The layers in the pdf do allow you to turn off images and background and make it more printer-friendly, should you choose to print it.
It should be noted that this is NOT an adventure that you can easily run spontaneously – there is no read-aloud text, and the module demands that a referee is rather familiar with the peculiarities of the dungeon-complex featured within. Having to look up stuff can, in this instance, be even more of a mood-killer than usual, so if you plan to run this, do your prep-work, and do it thoroughly. If you have an excellent memory or are a veteran referee, then you should have no serious issues running this.
All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
Okay, only referees around? Great!
So, the PCs are on their way to some place in the English country-side, but the module may, with a bit of reskinning, easily relocated to another place; there are rumors of a heresy or cult or somesuch, and the thus the PCs visit an old country church, where Reverend Elroy Bacon lives. This church is fully mapped and sports some interesting and creative artworks on display – while these are only described, they can provide a bit of a nice levity before the module turns dark.
You see, the rumors of the cult here? They’re, in a way, a kind of double-bluff: Yes, there is a “cult” of sorts, but it’s actually just a front for a secret religious order that conceals a great shame for Christianity, namely the true fate of none other than Augustine of Canterbury. Contrary to popular belief, the missionary did not die 604 AD. Paralyzed via poison, he was buried alive and then re-excavated from the lightless depths of his grave, only to be transformed into a horrid, shapeless mockery of his erstwhile form – the eponymous God That Crawls. It is a form of esprit de l’escalier that this transformation turned the man basically immune to the ravages of time. The conspiracy that began as pagan punishment became a cult, and when the Normans came, the cult was found, the goal, obviously, to keep the truth of Augustine’s state from ever coming to light.
Yeah. This does not bode well for the PCs. It should also be noted that clever PCs can find documents in the reverends room that, in a subtle manner, show the PCs how deep the conspiracy actually goes – these permits stretch back for years, and indeed, signatories are noted on a massive 2-page list. In another module, not even one would be given, so kudos for the obsessive attention to detail here! Now, the beginning of the module hinges on the PCs going down into the catacombs of the church, the place where the God That Crawls, looms, and a couple of simple deception angles are provided – this, in a way, represents a bottleneck for the referee to navigate, and the options, from drugged wine to force, could work, but depending on the paranoia level of your players, this may actually be the hardest part to pull off. Hence, my suggestion: Make the reverend own up to the catacombs being forbidden and warded, and hold a mass to “sanctify” the PCs so they don’t trigger the wards; all the villagers will proudly gaze upon the intrepid explorers, as they partake in drugged wine during the mass, only to have them wake at the bottom of the pit. This contextualizes the whole experience and appeals to player-ego, which may work for some PCs. Otherwise, another suggestion would be to have the villagers and reverend create a deliberate opening for infiltration. Both, at least to me, are a bit more subtle and likely to work than the suggestions presented, but that may just be me. After almost 20 years of suffering through my often sadistic GMing, my players are a tad bit paranoid, but I digress.
The dungeon presented is a remarkable, catacomb-like maze with tight tunnels and cells, spanning no less than 3 levels. In the print version, the map is on a fold-out in the back, with a stunning artwork of none other than Jason Rainville on the back. The bottom of the pit is covered in slime, for that is what the God That Crawls has become – a nigh-unstoppable slimy moloch that oozes through the claustrophobic tunnels. Stairs and ladders connect the three levels in a ton of connection points, and this is where the module becomes basically a survival-loot-run: The God That Crawls can theoretically be slain by feeding it clerics and thus reducing its regeneration, but that is EXTREMELY unlikely; the more likely outcome here would be that the PCs will be running. A LOT.
As such, the modules lists the modalities of running from the god, navigating stairs and traps and the like, in great detail, and provides two means for the referee to simulate the presence of the God That Crawls – one that has him spawn in, while the other meticulously tracks its movements. Which one you prefer is a matter of personal taste. I gravitate towards the harder choice of having him tracked properly, but your mileage may vary.
Now, if the villagers managed to drug/capture/fool the PCs, they will begin a ruckus to alert the creature pretty much immediately – and form then onwards, it’ll be the PLAYERS, not the PCs, who determine the difficulty of the adventure. You see, there are A TON of treasure caches denoted by Christian symbols – but breaking these open increases the chance of alerting the God That Crawls. (And yes, a generator is provided for these.)
In a way, this is akin to games like the Clocktower franchise or Haunting Ground when executed properly, as the God That Crawls shows up, resulting in panic and frantic escape. That being said, there is one point of criticism I have here: The God That Crawls is not a particularly interesting chase monster. There is one note of it reacting to mass by swaying in trance, but that’s about it. It doesn’t have unique reactions to certain areas, it doesn’t have unique set-piece reactions beyond follow and consume. Now, I get why that’s the case – it makes it a singularly determined and alien force, and it allows for some breathing room regarding the second leitmotif of the adventure, one that is not explicitly spelled out anywhere in the text of the module, or other reviews.
The God That Crawls, essentially, is an implacable and indestructible warden of sorts. Beyond the mundane treasure-caches, there are plenty of rooms here that contain evil, or at least extremely problematic, items. In a way, while reading this, I had this one impulse: “This is basically an SCP containment facility, fantasy edition!” There are a lot of rooms here that contain items that could be considered to be heretical and even deadly. There is, for example a gem in Null Space beyond a mirror, which may well se a character trapped there forever; there is a pin that makes a disgusting tumor grow slowly, which then proceeds to become a monster under its former host’s command. There is an invisible chair, a room that can make a silver coins gold, there are cursed statuettes that can garner obedience… and there is the spear of Longinus, which is surprisingly weak-sauce for such an artifact. It bypasses all immunities and armor, sure, but it also makes you anathema to the divine…so think well before picking it up. There is a text that could ignite horrific forms of anti-Semitism if circulated, courtesy of its despicable lies; there is a diamond that increases in worth if fed with blood…you get the idea.
Two of the items contained in this dungeon deserve special mention, with the first being the chariot of unreality, just the axle, actually. It’s magic, engulf a chariot affixed in flames, and may pull the PCs beyond space and time! And yes, the item actually comes with a warning. A spelled out warning. In game. If the PCs still go and do it…their problem. Anyway, the chariot may have the PCs vanish – if that happens, their character sheets are put in letters, which are then to be placed around public places. If they are returned, the PCs get XP, if not, the PCs are forever lost. Now, it should be obvious that this is a meta-item and somewhat experimental. I wouldn’t use this approach in e.g. New York City or the like, but yeah – it’s interesting. The chariot can also evaporate PCs if they take a specific amount of damage – reacting to that with humor is intended to be rewarded, which is a nice idea.
The second item would be The Book. Its write-up is a whole 6 pages long, and it is one of the most twisted, genuinely creepy artifacts I have ever encountered in a roleplaying game. It has been separated into different parts, so-called signatures, and these do contain a whole array of rather potent and unique spells; writing on it states that it must be assembled or kept apart and researching it…well, is nigh impossible. Why? Because The Book corrupts information. The more signatures are assembled, the more deadly it becomes, as everything starts unraveling – the item can well destroy all of existence, corrupting math, planes and the like. Beginning the process of assembly, having it fall into an enemy’s hands and then stopping it would be an amazing, utterly horrific campaign of apocalyptic proportions. I adore it. Unfortunately, I adore it more than pretty much anything else in the module.
In a way, the module may be too successful at its SCP-angle for its own good. The creepy and dangerous items with the God That Crawls as a kind of warden make for a super-unique angle, but one that would make more sense, at least to me, in the Vatican or a similarly heavily fortified place, framed by a heist narrative. The vast impact of the items and their religious significance in a couple of cases ultimately mean that it was a bit hard for me to suspend my disbelief regarding how they ended up so comparatively poorly guarded.
They also, in a way, dilute the focus, away from the survival horror aspect of the constant threat of the God That Crawls. The magical items and their cool angles stand in no true relation to the God That Crawls, and while PCs will probably experiment with a few of them/take them with them, the two focuses of the adventure never wholly align. Don’t get me wrong: They don’t impede each other in a crucial manner, and in a way, the dangerous items represent the true price to be gained here, but still. A sense of disjunction never wholly left me. That being said, this may well never actually come up in play for your group, as the whole containment site angle is very much a place that the players are not guaranteed to find or explore in detail.
Groups that find them, that are excited by the items may well consider the God That Crawls to be a nuisance of sorts, while paranoid/careful groups may well only encounter one or two, or even none of the items prior to escaping. Granted, most of these items are separated from the God’s roaming grounds by a chasm that it can’t cross, allowing for plenty of experimentation, but ultimately, the items, to me, somewhat diluted the frantic pace of the adventure.
If you manage to get the God That Crawls hunting the PCs done right, if you manage to incite the panic this module goes for, then the items will be less of a point of interest. This, in a way, ties in regarding my previous observation – the God That Crawls, in lack of a better term, doesn’t have a particularly compelling “AI”; adding a couple of “scripted” encounters is easy and should not overexert the prowess of any referee. Still, adding a couple of unique behavior patterns to keep up the pressure would have made the creature more compelling, at least for me. To give you an example: Within aforementioned chasm, there are mini-gods, split off over the century from the horrid slime-thing. They can’t, RAW, escape, but having conditions to free them would have made this more interesting – as would having the God That Crawls exhibit a kind of animal cunning, a couple of unique responses. The module, for example, allows the PCs to initiate collapses to get a respite from the God That Crawls – making the creature affect, at least potentially, the integrity of the complex, making it cut off PC routes and the like, would have added a whole new realization of terror here. Granted, once more that is easy enough to implement, but yeah.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no grievous glitches on either levels. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and manages to present quite a lot of content per page. The artworks by Jason Rainville are excellent, top-tier – no surprise there. The cartography by Devin Night is also full-color and neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the softcover print version is a nice book.
James Edward Raggi IV’s “The God That Crawls” is a module I wrestled with for a while. It plays better than it reads, courtesy of the smart design of the complex, and it requires some serious prep-work by the GM to become familiar with the complex and the plethora of stairs and ladders connecting the levels. It does reward the referee for doing so with the best execution of its trope I have seen in quite a long while, though. This is a good module, one could even argue it to be great. However, as discussed in the SPOILER-section above, it doesn’t feel as “whole” as e.g. “Death Frost Doom”, “The Grinding Gear” and some other early modules penned by the author. It has all the trademarks you’d expect: Lavish attention to detail, a bit of meta-game shenanigans, horrific stuff that can happen to the PCs, a focus on player-agenda over character-agenda, a focus on letting the greed of players/PCs dictate, in a way, the difficulty of the adventure…it’s all there. This module, in spite of my nitpicking above, is one that is definitely worth owning.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake that feeling, that, with a big more unique set-pieces pertaining the primary antagonist within, with a tighter focus or a more expansive scope, this could have been legendary. With a couple more pages to add a few unique reactions for the main antagonist, this could have been even better, a masterpiece; with a couple of mini-puzzles beyond navigation, this could have made for a longer and truly nerve-wracking
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
After a brief text that contextualizes dragon disciples within the Xa-Osoro system as a setting that’s shared by Everyman Gaming and Rogue Genius Games, we are introduced to the Dragon Disciple archetype, which nets key abilities at 2nd and 6th level. It may not be added to a dragon with the dragon graft or template or to a construct, and if you have a class that sports a bloodline or heritage-themed ability, said ability must be dragon-themed, if possible.
The second level ability is draconic form. You choose one dragon template graft, and 1/day may manifest draconic form as a swift action. While in this form, you gain the benefits of draconic manifestations. You get one draconic manifestation at the start, and may use the Expanded Draconic Form feat, which nets you another one. If you have this class feature, you may choose Expanded Draconic Form as an alternate class feature at 4th, 9th, 12th and 18th level. The special line notes that archetype may get this feat as an alternate ability at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter, as well as 9th – so, which one is the correct first one? 4th or 6th level?. Draconic form lasts for key ability modifier + ½ level. Starting at 6th level, you may spend 1 Resolve Point to use the draconic form once more before having to rest first.
The draconic manifestations provide a breath weapon, blindsense, shape change, expanded darkvision, draconic resistances, limited flight (with level appropriate unlock), natural weapons or a small boost to AC. Breath weapon thankfully has a Stamina-regain cooldown. At 9th level, the more potent draconic manifestations are unlocked. Here, burrow, climb or swim speed, DR, icewalking, better draconic resistances, sense through, SR, sound mimicry and both woodland and swamp stride may be found. It should be noted that your graft needs to be able to get these, so no undue cherry-picking.
Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level, with the one minor level inconsistency as the only relevant tarnishing. The full-color artwork is nice and layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Alexander Augunas does a pretty damn neat job translating the dragon disciple to SFRPG. Mechanically sound, solid and fun, it is not too restrictive, but manages to keep the options presented in check as well. All in all, a rather nice option, well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Star Log-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
All right, so, as always, we begin this with a contextualization of the subject matter at hand regarding the shared and implied setting of the Xa-Osoro galaxy, summarizing two popular starship manufacturers in a nice piece of fluff.
The pdf contains a total of 8 different expansion bays, which feature a proper table with PCU required noted alongside BP cost. One of these, the Null-Space Hold, comes in 3 Mks and basically applies the same tech as the null-space chamber, allowing for the creation of 2, 4 and 8 additional expansion bays, respectively. Big plus: The write-up thankfully notes that e.g. bays requiring external walls can’t be installed, and neither may these be cheesed – you can’t build null-space chambers or holds within null-space holds.
The hydroponic bay provide food and water, making space trips more sustainable and cost efficient, and also helps you slightly reduce Life Science and Medicine costs thanks to your herbal medicines. The luxury suit[sic!] is probably missing an “e” at the end, being a premium recreation area. The table knows three different levels of extraordinary living quarters for the rich, super-rich and ultra-rich. ;)
The robotics control center has its reach and carrying capacity determined by ship size, as it includes dexterous, exterior-facing robotic arms that allow the operator to perform tasks outside the starship without leaving it. The more arms you have, the more robotic arms you can control at once, so definite advantage for ksathas and skittermanders. Computers, Piloting, Sleight of Hand may be used for the arms. Attacks and a small table of suggested skill DC modifiers complement this one. Really cool.
The security center basically dislodges the security system from that of the ship, requiring infiltration to hack it. Solar wings come in the normal version that does what you’d expect, as well as a magical one, levitation solar wings, which allows for aerial sailing, requiring no time to turn on its thrusters, and may into orbit in normal and low-gravity planetoids sans requiring thrusters. Stellar Simulators help the crew analyzing phenomena and navigation, and telepathic resonators, which come in 3 different types, which allow for the broadcast of telepathy use via screen: Basically, viewing a creature in range of the resonator allows for communication, and even f the target is not seen, there’s a chance the mental signal goes through, provided it’s in range.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a nice artwork, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
David N. Ross’ expansion bays provide a couple of really cool bays that add a couple of options I’ve been waiting for; there are quite a bunch of fun options herein, more than one would assume! This is a really neat little pdf. Well worth getting, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
Ladies and gentlemen, gather round, as we elucidate upon this latest adventure entertainment provided for your edification by Fat Goblin Games. It covers a total of 28 pages, with a total of 4 of the pages being devoted to the paraphernalia of such tomes, thus making the totality of the content span 24 pages.
In case your undoubtedly busy schedules should have prevented you from crafting sample dramatic characters, no less than 6 of these have been provided for your immediate enjoyment. These include lavish pieces of artwork and photography and some guidance to properly depict these fine individuals of, as a whole, more or less proper breeding and education, in the entertainment to commence. These individuals are obviously presented in proper hand-out format, as well as in a form that collates the more mundane information in a few pages, as is proper: After all, the host should have an idea of the capabilities and peculiarities of the dramatic characters.
Now, obviously only the most dastardly scoundrel of questionable morale would engage in the heinous behavior of reading an adventure entertainment’s pages with the intent of participating in it as a player. However, as a reviewer, I feel it is my duty to inform hosts properly and thus, I will have to discuss the subject matter within these pages. I do strongly encourage all individuals of upright morals and proper standing to avoid reading the following. Instead, let me bid you adieu for now – we will see each other in the conclusion. Hosts, on the other hand, should very much continue reading, this section, so profanely littered with what the common man considers to be SPOILERS in today’s parlance.
Are only hosts left at this point? Marvelous! We begin this adventure entertainment with an alphabetical list of the dramatis personae, with full ability-sets included – for the dramatic characters will have plenty of interaction opportunity as they board the Duchess Elizabeth (yep, named after Sissi, empress of hearts) on her maiden journey on the Paris-München-Wien (funnily called Paris-München-Vienna in a bit of a linguistic inconsistency) express line – propelled forward by the revolutionary, eponymous Babbage’s engine in record time; it should be noted that this adventure entertainment is for once not based on the notes of Tom Olam – and while this may sound sacrilegious to some, Grandmaster Stephen Kenson’s notes do act as a more than adequate substitution.
So, the dramatic characters are witnesses and guests of the maiden voyage of the Duchess Elizabeth and they will have a chance to prove their proper upbringing and defend Professor Reinhard from some lower class ruffians – upon doing so, they will have an easy means/hook to get aboard, in the case the host has not yet provided such an angle to pursue. The Professor’s daughter/son (gender depending on the host’s decision, as Alan/Aileen acts as a love-interest) also joins them and they explain the reason for the professor’s presence: The Automated Telegraphic Punched Card Shuffler, a device crucial to the speedy and remote operation of the eponymous babbage’s engine powering the train.
Speaking of trains – alas, it should be noted that the adventure entertainment assumes a degree of familiarity with trains of our age; neither an overview or map, nor a closer depiction is provided, as it acts only as a backdrop for the inevitable arrival of some dastardly scoundrels hell-bent on attempting to kidnap the professor…which, after a scuffle, results in the train’s entire car being stolen via the massive airship that he dastardly villain of this tale commands. Apologies, my dear hosts, for I am getting ahead of myself, failing to note that the train can act as a perfect way to introduce some of the famous individuals of our age – from Arsène Lupin to Mark Twain, there are more than a few famous individuals on board, though these colorful persons and their involvement in the proceedings to come ultimately depend on the needs of the host.
I was elaborating on the villain of this dastardly ploy, correct? Well, one Lord Anton Dire, undoubtedly of questionable breeding, lord of a tin-pot Germano-Slavic micro-nation, has managed to construct this airship, courtesy of a strange material called Radium -and he considers Babbage’s engine to be one step towards his imminent rise to power. The whole capture of the draatic characters, alas, lacks crucial freedom for the respective guests entertained; it is simply assumed that they are overwhelmed and brought into the hidden hangar of aforementioned lord – at this point, I distinctly recalled Mr. Olam telling of a series of tales of a man named “Bond”, projected in mving images, not unlike those generated by a laterna magica; the similarities are peculiar indeed, including an all but moustache-twirling villain-monologue.
The inevitable escape of the dramatic characters from the map-less base of the archfiend is, alas, once again glossed over. This can prove puzzling, to say the least, for we are living in an age of high adventure and it is hard to picture something as adventurous as climbing outside of a train car, hijacked by evil forces unknown, to bring righteous battle to the adversaries…but I digress. The escape is supposed to be relatively easy for the dramatic characters, though I do consider it to be similarly lacking in depth – while Lord Dire does adhere to at least basic premises of honorable conduct, I nevertheless found myself to be a bit flustered here: The adventure entertainment does try to justify the lack of a map for the baron’s fortress, but considering the tropes of espionage, a proper means to plan for the dramatic characters would have greatly enhanced the experience here. It is also puzzling how a lord like Dire can obviously not even contemplate dueling with dramatic characters of proper standing that demand satisfaction – the whole idea has not even briefly been touched upon.
Ultimately, the dramatic characters will have to attempt to pursue the Reinhards and the Baron onto his flying platform (which receives the proper statistics for use in the Grand Game), where the villain escapes with the younger Reinhard as hostage on an ornithopter – and potentially, an interesting chase begins, concluding this brief adventure entertainment with a well-written epilogue.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a beautiful, elegant 2-column full-color standard and the artworks constitute a wonderfully chosen blend of period piece photography and fitting art. The electronic format sports navigation helpers, commonly referred to as bookmarks, for your convenience.
Grandmaster Stephen Kenson and Mister J Gray provide an adventure entertainment, which structurally mirrors the means of propulsion that is at the center of the proceedings depicted: To put it bluntly, this is a railroad. If an engagement of your higher faculties is what you are looking for, then I do suggest “Firearms & Margarine” instead – which, to me, is the vastly superior offering. Why? Well, this, as the pedestrians would call it, thrill-ride sprints from evocative scene to evocative scene and paints in gorgeous colors a vision that makes great use of the unique peculiarities of this gorgeous world of ours; alas, while the prose paints the proceedings of the plot in poignant highlights, the details that are expected, if we remain within the metaphor employed, remain sketches that are not filled out.
As long as the dramatic characters follow the linear structure of the plot, this works brilliantly, beautifully; however, there are plenty of times when the proposed course of action may not necessarily make sense from the dramatic character’s perspective. Here, the illusion of choice is very thin indeed and as a whole, even in the more open sections of this offering, the host will have to engage in A LOT of improvisation. To cut my lengthy and undoubtedly, sufficiently verbose analysis short: This adventure entertainment buckles under the weight of its own ideas and simply does not spend enough time and pages to adequately develop the respective scenes. As long as you can maintain a brisk pace and the dramatic characters cooperate, all’s well…but there are plenty of potential hiccups if they start tugging at the very thin curtain that’s hiding the wizard. As long as the host maintains the hasty pace, it feels like a sequence of highlights and can work as such.
All of these criticisms may not apply to some groups out there, but for me, this left me dissatisfied on a high level – with about twice the pages allotted for the details and a less breackneck pace, this could have easily went down in the annals as a true masterpiece. In its current state, however, I cannot rate this adventure higher than 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. If your group prefers action, then you should round up as well; if you’re like me and prefer Castle Falkenstein of a more versatile, cerebral bent, then round down instead.
I bid you adieu for now, mesdames et messieurs,
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This supplemental rules-pdf for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ ½ page of SRD, leaving us with 8.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, after a brief framing narration by Tom Olam (which resurfaces in the respective sub-chapters), we begin with the first of several tweaks to the base engine of Castle Falkenstein – in this instance, we’re introduced to the Specialization variant: Instead of general Ability capabilities, the system allows you to take a Good or Great ability and trade it in for Specializations, a number equal to ½ the value of the traded ability, with Good being worth 3, Great being worth 4 specializations. Specializations can be applied to any Ability in which the character is Poor or Average – the specialization increases the Ability by one step for the purpose of performing Feats that relate to the Specialization in question. Thankfully, a massive table (greater than 1 page!) provides sample specializations and also provides synergy with the great Tarot Variation suits – so no, you’re not left guessing regarding how narrow you should design Specializations. It should also be noted that compatibility with Comme Il Faut is maintained.
The second variation featured within the pdf would be the divorce variation, which once again features compatibility with the Tarot Variation. Each Ability is governed by a playing card suit, but with this variation, the Abilities allow for players making an argument of why a given suit may apply its bonus to a given task – in two variations: Half and full value. There is some value in this – you will probably be able to perform at an increased efficiency. However, while the Host remains the final arbitrator of what you can do, I really don’t like this one – it smells of FATE and competitive BSing to me, but, obviously, your mileage may vary and thankfully, we are the final instance that decides which of the rules herein to use and which not to – this will find its fans and it makes the game easier and while, as a person, I don’t care for it, as a reviewer, I can appreciate its appeal.
The final variation would be the improvement variation: In this variation, dramatic characters improve by spending Improvement Points. Hosts are guided in detail: You determine Deeds during the adventure, a kind of important waypoint and determine an Improvement Point value for such Deeds. Beyond the confines of adventures, dramatic characters may try to earn Improvement Points via Resolutions, which can be completed, but take time to complete, with each character getting one of these – the Resolutions can be similarly broken down into Deeds, with samples provided. The resolution allows, in a way, for downtime activity: Players really invested in their Dramatic Characters can thus be rewarded for e.g. writing copious amounts of prose – or you can simply control character power thus or provide an illusion of cohesion beyond the confines of the gaming sessions.
Once earned, Improvement Points can be spent to improve Abilities (cost being equal to the Ability’s new value). When also using Specializations, they can be used to purchase Specializations, which cost 6 points. An alternate for faster growth of dramatic characters can also be found, with decreased costs – and since the metrics are pretty simple, tweaking the variation remains very simple. If you’re concerned about justifying Improvement in-game, the pdf does provide guidance in that arena.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to fat Goblin Games’ elegant, really neat 2-column full-color artwork. The pdf features fitting stock-art and sports no bookmarks – due to its brevity, it does get a pass there.
Mister J Gray LOVES Castle Falkenstein – as much becomes evident in every single of his supplements. The means by which this establishes a continuity with the venerable original Castle Falkenstein books is amazing, and so is the quality. The variant rules presented herein for a measly buck allow you to tweak the playing experience very well and net an interesting array of customization options for the game. I hope the Talsorian-crew reads these reviews and lets the Fat Goblin Games-crew update the Castle Falkenstein-core books in a new edition – if anything, all these variations really make me crave a big, new and shiny book. This is a fun offering, it is VERY inexpensive and thus gains a final verdict of 5 stars.