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An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Fearsome Foes-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The story of the Black Hounds begins with Belik Hammerfist, born to loving half-orc parents, and subsequently orphaned at the tender age of 7 in peacekeeping riots that, including arcane police fireballing buildings, seems surprisingly topical when thinking about the world in general. Anyway, this incident did spawn a massive riot that burned half the city down, but Bellik? He survived the next 10 years on the streets, going through the school of hard knocks, if you will. With his renown growing, he struck a deal with the local magic shop proprietor Audrey Vim – she’d be the grey eminence, he’d be the face of the new mercenary outfit. And thus, the Black Hounds were born – a mercenary company not concerned with the ethics of their employers, with one exception – no killing if possible, even when a reward of securing target dead is worth just as much as a target that’s alive.
The narrative was surprisingly compelling here, and this extends to the adventure hooks, which are MUCH more detailed than usual – and more interesting. They do contain rules-relevant components, including DCs, and some can be considered to be closer to adventure outlines than simple hooks. The Black Hounds themselves are not simply background flavor – instead, they are depicted as a full-blown organization, including a logo, notes on good and challenging classes, headquarters, and resources! Yep, full-blown organization rules! For 1 TPA, you can e.g. get a tattoo or brand that nets you a +2 circumstance bonus to Diplomacy with other Black Hounds members. Discounts, retraining, hired specialists, merciful (not italicized properly) weapons at a discount and more – huge kudos here!
The pdf, obviously, also contains stats – the rank-and file member is a level 6 bounty hunter slayer (including bolas etc.!), and Ms. Vim? She is a capable occultist, with focus allocated etc. – minor nitpick: Spell-references in her tactics are not italicized. Belik himself is a capable barbarian/slayer multiclass, and surprisingly not as straight-forward a build as I expected. The pdf also provides prefabricated encounter-information, with individual teams for CRs ranging from 5 to 11. Cool here: One of these ties in with the adventure hooks, namely Audrey’s vindictive ex-girlfriend – the stats of that lady and her bodyguard are from the NPC Codex, but personally? Loved this extra touch.
Vanessa Hoskins is a trooper of a designer, and she knows how to write compelling characters. The concept of the Black Hounds should not elicit as much excitement from me as it does; the angle of the professional “bring ‘em back alive”-group is not new; and yet, its implementation made me smile time and again; it’s the little tidbits that render this compelling, both mechanically and from a narrative point of view: The “loving” parents, the tragedy, the inclusion of organization information, the Ex-girlfriend-angle – this feels like a book the designer obviously CARED about. Considering this and the low price-point, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Starfarer’s Arsenal-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
What’s more awesome than blowing foes up with grenades? Laser grenades!
This pdf introduces 4 types of laser grenade: Excimer laser grenades cause targets that fail their saving throw vs. explode to also burn; discs are easier to throw; x-ray grenade ignore cover from objects with hardness 21 or more or force effects, and also cause burn – but pay for that by causing less damage. Pulse grenades have the new pulse weapon feature – which must always be paired with explode. It does damage immediately, and again at the end of your next turn – you can turn the second pulse off, if you choose to…and picking it up might allow capable Engineering-savvy characters to prevent the secondary pulse.
There is one grenade for every one of the 20 item levels, with three types of x-ray laser grenades, 4 types of excimer and pulse grenades, and 5 regular types of laser grenade.
Owen K.C. Stephens delivers big time here – I mean, come on, the concept of laser grenades might not be scientifically-viable, but for a science-fantasy game like Starfinder? For that, it’s pitch-perfect and oozes coolness. The design of the grenades regarding prices, damage caused, etc. is meticulous, and pulsing grenades? Great addition that can really lead to tense scenes. Considering the low price point, this pdf delivers more than I dared hope for from it. 5 stars + seal of approval – highly recommended for any Starfinder game!
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf contains 2 spells, both of which exist for levels 1-6, with both spells available at all spell levels for mystic and technomancer. They also feature the (formwarp) descriptor, which is concisely-defined herein in its interaction with e.g. polymorph effects.
Both of the spells cam be cast as a standard action; formwarp has a close range and targets one creature, while transmute body has a target of personal. Both last for 1 min/level and are dismissible. Formwarp has an interesting and rather complex structure: It has formwarp lists for each level and then provides subheaders that also denote the systems they modify: Take e.g. climber’s soles: At 1st level, we have climbing speed 20 ft., or + 10 ft. enhancement bonus climbing speed. At 6th spell level, we have a climb “peed”[sic!] of 70 feet, or +60 ft.-enhancement bonus to climbing speed, as well as allowing for the climbing of perfectly smooth surfaces. At 3rd level, you don’t have to use your hands to climb, for example. Each level has something unique going on. Take digitigrades locomotion: Jet Dash, run as a move action, withdraw as a move action (balanced by becoming flat-footed and off-target)…these bonuses offer SERIOUS and important tactical benefits, while retaining the balancing of the game. Gaining blindsight and variations of blindsense, gaining additional arms, natural weapons…what about quicker drawing of multiple items? Or piscine transmutations? This spell is a mighty engine and it certainly can change tactics in a unique manner.
Transmute body is frickin’ brutal – it makes you choose one type of energy or matter, with matter providing the more significant damage output of e.g. the modified unarmed damage inflicted. Each choice has different resistances/DRs and additional qualities/weaknesses. Matter provides scaling fortification. If energy is chosen instead, the character becomes incorporeal, which is one of the by far best defensive options in SFRPG – as soon as first level! Granted, the individual forms do have weaknesses, but getting incorporeal at the lowest level is imho too strong – going the route of partial incorporeity, with scaling and minor versions of the defenses increasing at higher levels, might have been the better call. A further nitpick with this spell would be that the damage types of the respective attacks granted are not classified. While it is obvious what damage electricity forms will inflict, the same can’t necessarily be said about radiant and shadow forms – while Starfinder does have suitable damage types here, having them spelled out would have been a big convenience boost – and prevent RAW-discussions. On the plus side, while not perfect, we do get two new universal monster rules, namely absorb and spines, adding to the game. And while I am not happy with low-level incorporeity, I don’t think that the spell as such will break the game. My balance-concern, particularly for incorporeal forms at low levels, though, remains.
Finally, the introduction page contains 3 feats: If you can cast the 1st-level version of formwarp, you’re eligible to take Formwarp Knowledge, which lets you choose four additional formwarps for each spell level of the formwarp spell you have. Body Transmutation Knowledge requires that you be able to cast transmute body at 1st level, which lets you choose four additional energy or matter forms for each spell level of transmute body. Formwarp Adept lets you change formwarp spells targeting yourself as a standard action, switching the current formwarp to another of an equal level or less. Nice!
Alexander Augunas presents two mighty spell-engines here, both of which are very interesting and broad in their applications. Both are tough cookies to design, and should enrich most games; while personally, I’ll use a formula akin to how the gradual increase of fortification behaves for transmute body’s matter forms to nerf the incorporeity components of the spell, I still very much like this supplement. Lower-powered groups might want to beware of the unmodified version of the second spell…and yet, I can’t help but admire the complexity of the material, its ambition and how well it is, ultimately executed considering that. That, and I always prefer ambition and daring with minor flaws over boring and safe cookie-cutter files that execute their blandness properly. This pdf is many things, but “boring” or “simple” are certainly two things that this is not, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
An Endzeitgeist.com articleEndzeitgeist —
So, this massive hardcover clocks in at 609 pages. Yes, 609 pages of content – this is already minus the usual editorial, ToC, SRD, etc. And there is a LOT of text on each page. This is literally one of the most densely-packed books I’ve read in a long while.
Why did I not call this “campaign setting”? Because there is more to this.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first thing you have to know, is that I have contributed to this tome – I’ve written a race and an archetype for this massive book, the Rhyzala and the Mycorrhizal Networker radiant archetype , to be more precise. As such, this discussion of the book will NOT have a traditional final rating.
At the same time, I genuinely feel that I have to talk about this – and supporters of my patreon asked me to discuss this tome. Why did this take so long? Well, I print out most pdfs I cover, and reading a book of this size on screen? Just not gonna happen. So yeah, this review is based primary on the massive hardcover.
Considering the vast scope of this massive tome, there are quite a few things to cover, and as such, I will diverge from my usual reviewing template. It should be noted that this can be approached as either a crunch book, or a campaign setting – or as it is intended, as both.
The first thing I noticed when this book arrived, was its bulk, quality and size. Offset printing, glossy pages, and then you flip it open, and your jaw pretty much hits the floor: This book is CHOCK-FULL with phenomenal, high-quality original artwork that manages to adhere to a concise aesthetic. Liz Courts’ layout is also just stunning, using icons for factions and generating a book that is truly impressive to just show off. I maintain that this book looks better than a lot of official 1st party products, and if you’re interested and can find a copy of it, I’d strongly suggest getting this massive beast in print. The book also came with a special card that unearths secrets of the city – check twitter, hashtag #SecretsofCo7S for more of those – love that! I should also mention that the book, so far, has withstood rather well my habit of dragging it around. So yeah: Physical copy? Highly recommended.
Anyhow, you’re more interested in the content. In the most simplistic of terms, this is a planar metropolis setting somewhat akin to Planescape’s Sigil in function, in that it can act as a meta-setting to transition into. It’s also a massive book of rules-relevant material, of crunch. Both of these summaries, however, are woefully inadequate in describing this book properly. It’s very hard to summarize this tome in a satisfying manner, so let me frame a couple of basic questions for you:
1) How hardcore a Pathfinder 1st edition fan are you? And how permissive are in your game?
There is one exception to this, and that would be akasha, which is a crucial component of the book – if you ignore akasha, you are missing out on quite a lot of content. Michael Sayre’s revision of the Incarnum rules is perhaps one of the most mathematically-impressive sub-system I’ve seen for Pathfinder, and it checks out VERY well and is finely-tuned. Akashic Mysteries may well be my favorite book from Dreamscarred Press, on par with the all but required Ultimate Psionics. That being said, this book is essentially Akashic Mysteries II – we have the new base-classes from Akashic Trinity included herein – and, unlike the teaser-standalone release of those, we have plenty of complex archetypes that change how they play. I LOVE akasha, and I hated Incarnum with a fiery passion. And honestly? I consider the akashic material herein to be even better than the first Akashic Mysteries release.
Of course, as any GM with a long-term experience with permissive GMing can attest to, there is the question of internal balancing to contend with in the face of so many different options. And interestingly, this book, in spite of its massive scope, manages to generally find a pretty concise line regarding a high power-level that remains still within the frame that makes the math not crumble to bits. I’ll return to the grand balancing question later.
For now, let us take a look at the list of authors. Beyond Christen N. Sowards, we have Kate Baker, Wolfgang Baur, Clinton Boomer, Savannah Broadway, Robert Brookes, Tytiana Browne, Matt Daley, Scott Gladstein, Sasha Laranoa Harving, N. Jolly, Michael Lefavor, Colin McComb, Ron Lundeen, Richard Moore, Andrew Mullen, Jessica Redekop, David N. Ross, Michael Sayre, Jaye Sonia, Todd Stewart, Brian Suskind, George “Loki” Williams, and last and probably least, ole’ me.
If you know about Pathfinder, you’ll recognize a lot, perhaps all of these names, and you’ll notice that they have one thing in common: High concepts. All of these authors are, in some way or another, known for not settling on the mundane, and this shows, big time. If you know about pathfinder, you’ll also note, though, that there are some people here, which I’d consider to be primarily designers, while others, I’d think of more as authors. This does show in the crunch of this book, and it might be more evident than in comparable tomes, because this has a seriously wicked amount of top-tier rules. As noted, thinking of this as Akashic Mysteries II is a way to appreciate the book for that aspect – and frankly, it might be even better than the first akasha tome – and that one made my top ten list. You just have to start reading N. Jolly’s kyton-spawned, somewhat inevitable-like judow race to start salivating, and same goes for genuinely cool concepts like the mirrorkin, a race that pushes the boundaries of the engine; I obviously hope my own rhyzala also inspire folks out there. For example, Oathbound 7 (Kudos if you own that obscure book!) had introduced the brilliant psychic, telekinetic jellyfish race Ceptu, which is part of the City. However, if you’re familiar with Oathbound 7, you’ll know that rules aren’t exactly the strong suit of the authors of that tome, and thus, the ceptu will require some GM calls to use in a concise manner. I *think* the original verbiage was maintained for the purpose of faithfulness, but the race imho needs clarification of how e.g. its telekinetic fighting ability precisely operates. This is NOT a dealbreaker, but there are a few instances where a dip in rules-integrity is evident, particularly since the book otherwise delivers top-tier echelon material.
That being said, even if you take those, and the inevitable formatting oversights here, the missing bonus type there into account, you’ll still be left with a book that has a far above-average quality of rules, concepts and designs – and EVERYBODY will find something to their tastes. The tome is littered with archetypes, prestige classes, occult rituals, mythic support (with warning caveats and GM guidance), feats that feel like a loveletter to Rite Publishing’s Martial Arts Guidebook, psionic powers, veils – there is just so much amazing stuff here, and the vast majority of the material is meticulously precise. What about e.g. feats that are activated as a free action on your turn, as an immediate action when it’s not your turn? You know you want to take a feat that’s called “Soul of the Stormbolt, Flesh of the Thunderstroke”, right? I know I do! In short: Unlike many massive crunch-books I’ve reviews (and I genuinely think I haven’t covered a crunch-book of this size before), both editing and formatting are much better than anticipated; indeed, some might say than what an indie production like this, with some many different authors would make you hope for.
So yeah, while in some sections uneven, this book breathes the tradition of Lost Spheres Publishing, in that it does not settle for bland – the ambition regarding the rules is evident throughout. This may not be perfect, but even when divorced from its setting, I consider this book to be well worth its asking price – it is one of the most ambitious rules books I have ever read, and contains a lot of top-tier material.
This is NOT the entire mechanical/permissive appeal; there is more to this book in that regard, but to understand the imho biggest achievement of this tome, you will need to take the campaign setting into account as well, and that’s what we’ll do.
The second grand question this poses would be:
2) Do you want something genuinely new?
Start of academic digressions here!
If you do have the book in front of you, I’d suggest that you read the creation myth of the city, the start of the book, first – and then flip to the end and read the GM advice that explains leitmotifs etc., for the creation myth is indeed a mythology; it is deliberately couched in terms of vagueness and speculation, and it feels like a narrative of a place that never was; unlike many a book or setting, it does not borrow from real-world mythology in the strictest sense, though it does intersect with it.
I won’t surprise anyone when I’m stating that light tends to be connotated and conflated with good, darkness with evil, right? As Jacques Derrida famously observed, Western thinking tends to operate in dichotomies that value presence over absence; this is, in part, obviously due to the influence of the Abrahamic religions, gender-roles, power-structure, etc. – once you’ve understood this, you’ll see it everywhere, in all those little micro-appraisals and judgments we engage in on a daily basis, many firmly rooted in our language’s conventions. I don’t have to explain to you that the fact that we tend to value one part of the dichotomy over the other is problematic; moreover, however, the implication is more insidious. The dichotomy implies an either/or state, a simplified Kierkegaardian “enten/eller” that we engage with on a daily basis, when that’s not at all what truly correlates to the complex realities we face in reality.
In a way, gaming might be escapism, but we all know, on a deep level, that extremes of dichotomies are bad writing and gaming. A utopia bereft of threats is boring…and so is a grimdark world, where everything good and pure inevitably turns to s#@@. It’s why Ravenloft is compelling to me – the deck is stacked against heroes, but even the dark lords of that place suffer; they are not one-dimensional villains, but complex entities condemned to their fates and eternal punishment by character flaws. Almost every GM out there had, at one point, an insufferable paladin whose fanaticism and extreme interpretation of what being good means, required either conforming to rigid and unpleasant simplifications of complex problems, whose commitment to this nebulous notion of “lawful goodness” potentially made them a martyr…or fall from grace, as the line between good and evil, between the extremes, actually is pretty fluid. There is a reason for my well-documented HATE for the alignment system in any game, for the presence of the plethora of lawful stupid memes, for the countless threads of GMs struggling how to negotiate alignments of different characters. On the other hand of the spectrum, a person who is just evil for the sake of being evil…is a Saturday morning cartoon cliché; it does not resonate, and nobody will empathize or consider the like interesting. Engaging in grimdark misery stockpiling just numbs you.
To give you all another well-known example of a mythology that is very much founded on an either/or-scenario: Dark Souls. It’s a “you lose either way”-scenario, a nihilistic catch-22. City of the 7 Seraphs, with its light/dark-theme could have easily ripped off the Dark Souls franchise’s mythology, but elected to go another route with this leitmotif, and one that is EXTREMELY relevant for us all, even beyond the gaming sphere.
You see, the City needs to balance its position in order to thrive – there can’t even be just light, there can’t ever be just dark; it is a city of twilight, of dark, of light, and all the shades in-between. Both Occlusion and Radia, ultimately, promise annihilation; the city can only thrive while these two forces are in balance; they are extremes, absolutes – and they exist as demarcation lines for concepts – but life? Life thrives between. Why is this relevant? I am, as you probably all know, from the United States, and when I see how the political system is geared towards enforcing a dichotomy, it breaks my heart; over the last couple of years, I’ve seen an increase in hostility, an increase in communication breakdowns for not being on the “right” side of the political spectrum; I’ve witnessed a radicalization of per se important concepts. And I think that this deep division, this wound, is the result of dichotomous thinking. I, for example, do not believe that most Republicans are Nazis, even though I’ve seen this sentiment echoed time and again. Nor do I think that most Democrats are hippies. But that’s the level of discussion we can witness, time and again on social media. That, and guilty by association – not blocking the “right” people on social media can already be construed as an attack on a given person’s entire being.
For Part II of this massive text, click here!
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This supplement clocks in at 23 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, what are Bloodborn? Well, at one point, there were those that came before – collectors of lore and knowledge, this ancient empire implemented a unique plan to withstand the inevitable fall of their empire, electing not for the preservation of the self, but instead of the things they achieved in a supremely selfless gesture. Thus, they crafted the Sourcerunes and the Bloodwells – when these are seeded with the blood of 2 compatible beings, thus generating the bloodborn, heirs to an ancient empire. Mechanically, the bloodborn are augmented humans who receive +2 to an ability score of their choice, and they choose two skills to represent the blood donors – these become class skills. Subject to the GM’s discretion, this might allow the bloodborn to engage in skills familiar to the blood patrons. Due to their unique genesis, bloodborn have a -2 penalty to saving throws versus death effects and can’t reproduce naturally. The dual heritage has a unique effect, with the echoes of conflicting memories growing ever strong. If the bloodborn remain single-classed after 1st level, they incur a circumstance penalty equal to the number of class levels beyond the first to all d20 rolls; if this penalty exceeds the highest mental ability score modifier, they even become insane! This is an AMAZING notion I really like – however, RAW, taking a single other level eliminates this effect when not using the variant multiclassing rules from Pathfinder Unchained. When not using those, consider instead adding the following to the rules-language:
“When the class level of a multiclassed bloodborn in a single class exceeds the total combined class levels they have in other classes by more than 1, this penalty applies as well.” There, fixed that for non-Pathfinder Unchained multiclassing for you. :)
Now, what’s with those Sourcerunes? Each bloodborn begins play attuned to two such runes – one of these is the primary Sourcerune, the other being the secondary Sourcerune. 6 Sourcerunes are provided, and yes, these do include drawings that showcase them – love that! Each Sourcerune has a primary and secondary benefit, and the first would be the Atkai, who may use Charisma as governing spellcasting ability score for spellcasting or manifesting, or instead choose a single class and make the supernatural or spell-like abilities be governed by Charisma. The secondary ability score is an alternate favored class option, granting access to a single spell known. The Muo rune may instead use Wisdom as governing modifier as a primary benefit, and as a secondary benefit, we have a channel energy enhancing alternate favored class option. Essal, unsurprisingly, use Intelligence as their governing spellcasting ability score, and the favored class option alternative granted from the secondary benefit nets a racial bonus to a skill – important: This does NOT count as ranks, so no cheesing of prerequisites! Good call there! The Juhn can use Constitution as the governing spellcasting…you get the idea by now, right? The secondary benefit of that family can enhance e.g. ki or arcane pools as an alternate favored class option. The Jhi family can learn to cast via Dexterity and their secondary benefit nets ¼ bonus feat. Sho, as you could picture by now, nets Strength and either a martial weapon proficiency or half an exotic weapon proficiency.
Okay, before we continue: I do not like seeing the physical ability scores as basis for spellcasting; HOWEVER, considering the limitations and enforced multiclassing of the base race, this had a rather intriguing effect – it rendered a whole plethora of multiclass builds and concepts suddenly valid. While there are bound to be some that are exceedingly potent, the race can help you with other components, and do so rather formidably: Let’s say you’re playing a 15-point-buy campaign, but want to play a class with MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependence) – this can help somewhat mitigate that. The concept looks horribly broken on paper, and you can indeed generate VERY potent combos – but it’s not as easy as you might think, and it actually works in favor of plenty of unique character concepts – so yeah, I do consider this to be a wide-open, but inspiring component of the race’s design.
This is not where the pdf stops, though! Instead, we are introduced to the concept of Sourcerune Resonance: Depending on which runes you chose, you get different unique abilities that may be triggered under the right circumstances, which can just be using abilities on consecutive rounds, or e.g. require using abilities from the same class in subsequent rounds, etc. Let’s say, you’ve chosen Atkai as your primary rune, and Muo as your secondary one, right? When you use a spell, granted ability or power within one round of using a spell, granted ability or power from a different class, the second effect will have its level of usage (caster level, manifester level, class level for the purpose of scaling abilities, etc.) increased by 1 – or you can increase the save DC, if any, by +1. If you have Atkai-Juhn (Atkai primary, Juhn secondary), if you thus alternate abilities granted from different classes or use ones from the same class, you get temporary hit points equal to the effect’s level, with the temporary hit points overlapping, so no stacking to high-heavens. That’s good. Even better: The rules language prevents infinite healing exploits! Since the effect’s level is the governing metric, cantrips and the like can’t be abused in conjunction with hit point transfer. Very clever. And before you ask: Yes, the pdf is very much cognizant of the term “granted abilities” not being standard rules language, and defines the term properly. And yep, with the right resonance, you can get Weapon of the Soul and a mindblade.
This is easily the most mechanically-unique player race I’ve seen in a long, long time. But does the supplemental material hold up?
Well, first of all, we get not one, not two, but 24 (!!) new [Runic]-feats. Why are there so many? Because the help build on individual Sourcerune Resonances. Let’s take soulgrace, which is the Muo-Jhi resonant power – it provides a +1 luck bonus to a penalized roll; with the proper feat, the duration of this bonus extends to 1 round, or until the penalty ceases. There is also an interesting one, namely Imprint Rune, which lets you meditate with other bloodborn, replacing the feat with a feat the other bloodborn has that you qualify for. Cool! Quicker rune-drafting, bonus to atk and damage when attacking targets that failed against an effect powered by your Soulrune Resonance – we essentially have a feat-based expansion of the base combo-reward engine championed by the base Soulrune Resonance frame. I am not a fan of the feat that lets you increase threat range and multiplier; multiplier should cap at x4, and threat-range should have a caveat that prevents undue stacking…but I don’t consider this feat to be OP. Why? Because it has a maximum daily use limitation – the verbiage here “Before you must reset” is not perfect, but yeah. Really cool: There is a feat that lets you, when resting, switch primary and secondary rune! This essentially provides a gestalt-lite engine, two different modes – love it! Other feats allow for the suppression of visible runes, and as noted before, there is a mindblade lite engine. A lite-version of martial flexibility may also be found – and yep, it’s only available t one resonance, thankfully.
The pdf also presents two prestige classes, with the first being the bloodstone adept, wjo requires aforementioned feat to reverse primary and secondary rune, as well as 5 ranks in Knowledge (Arcana)…and he needs access to past-life or ancestral memory. The PrC gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression, and 7/10 spellcasting/manifesting/feature progression. In that way, this 10-level PrC is akin to e.g. Everybody Games’ take on PrCs – which is a good thing. The adept may, at first level, enter an 8-hour trance too channel an alternate self. This self has the same statistics and racial bonuses, and the runic self must have one level in common with the bloodrune’s adept, but may redistribute the class levels among the classes they have. The runic self is balanced by having levels equal to character level -2, and may differ from the original character’s alignment by one step. At 6th and 10th level, the character gains an additional such self. At 4th level, these selves may be character level -1, and at 9th level, they may be of equal level of the character. However, the text does not state this – it’s obvious that this was intended, but the “Greater Bloodrune Recall”-text is missing. :(
At 2nd and 7th level, you get a blood self, which is similar, save that the blood self must share class levels with the bloodborn’s patron donors (the people that spawned the bloodborn), and the alignment of these may diverge up to two steps from the bloodborn, as long as it’s towards the blood patron’s alignment. Cool. 3rd level and 8th level net a bonus feat (though the text does not mention the 8th level). At 5th level, we have the ability to 1/day lets you act as though an alternate runic or blood self, with the full compliment of powers. The text here contradicts the class table, stating that a second daily use is gained at 9th level, while the class table states it’s supposed to be 10th level. The latter is obviously correct.
The second PrC is the zenith caster, who requires two metamagic feats, Knowledge (Arcana) 5 ranks and access to spells or powers of 2nd level from two or more classes. These fellows get d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level. Interesting: At each level except at 1st and 5th, you gain spells/powers/etc. known as well as caster/manifester level increase as though you advanced in one of your original classes; at 1st and 5th level, you ALSO get an increase in CL/ML etc. in your LOWEST CL/ML/etc. class. The ability also uses the Source concept of many Lost Spheres Publishing books to add some caveats here. At first level, the PrC lets you choose two classes with different Sources, increasing CL (and, I assume ML etc. – though that’s not spelled out this time) by +1. This increases once more at 4th and 7th level. This is called “tidal magic”, and at 2nd level, you can select a metamagic feat – you can sacrifice a spell or spell slot from one of your tidal magic sources to apply the metamagic feat to the other tidal magic source chosen. The class feature includes a limitation on maximum spell-level enhancement, and the complex ability sports a caveat that prevents abuse – you have to sacrifice a spell slot or spell prepared of at least the metamagic feat’s spell adjustment. And yes, does take psionics into account. 5th and 9th level net bonus feats. You select an additional such metamagic feat at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter. This one is cool – a feasible dual-caster metamagic specialist that is not overpowered. Interesting indeed.
The pdf also sports two new psionic powers: Destabilize resonance is cool in that it ends your resonance effect as an immediate action to let you make a touch attack that deals, what I surmise from descriptor etc., MUST be force damage – the power does not state this in an obvious oversight, though. Rune lock is also cool and lets you temporarily lock down your resonance effects. The pdf also offers two new spells – hide sourcerune, and the mighty curse seal sourcerune – both do exactly what you think they’d do.
The final page of the pdf contains new mythic path abilities – universal path abilities include extended resonance duration at 1st tier, and a potent enhancer to the number of runic feats possessed for the purpose of their benefits at 3rd tier. The Archmage path allows as a first tier ability to invoke a drafted rune more often; at 6th tier, we have a cool ability to be reborn as a bloodborn upon being slain. The Master-of-Shapes (see Lost Sphere’s Mythic Paths booklet) gets the 1st tier ability lets you consume a slain bloodborn, gaining essentially another secondary sourcerune – or a primary rune, if you’re no bloodborn. Minor nitpick: The feat referenced here is called Tertiary Attunement, not Tertiary Sourcerune. The Scion-of-High-Sorcery may, with the right 1st tier ability, gain access to the SOurcerunes by tasting a bloodborn’s blood. The Will-of-All, finally, gets a 1st tier ability – and here, something has gone wrong with the sentence structure, and an “r” is missing; essentially, you make a connection between your Sourcerunes and that of a bloodborn , and you get the resonant benefits of this connection.
Christen N. Sowards’ bloodborn made me wish for one thing – that this got a final editing pass. Why? Because I genuinely LOVE the race. Yes. Ole’ cynical Endy actually likes a race. The supplement fills a very distinct niche, and does so with panache aplomb – it is ambitious, cool and genuinely fun. The concept is inspiring, and as a whole, I adored the race. This’d be a straight 5 star + seal of approval file, were it not for its glitches, and try as I want to, I can’t ignore them as a reviewer. The core feature of the race requires an additional sentence to smoothly run with non-unchained-multiclassing, and while the engine works smoothly and surprisingly well, there are, time and again, these small hiccups…and a few greater ones. I honestly should be rounding down, but I genuinely, seriously enjoyed the material herein, its snafus notwithstanding – and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars….and for the race, for what it brings to multiclassing…this does actually get my seal of approval, for those components are seriously inspired.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Classes of the Lost Spheres-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.
All right, so, the paramour, chassis-wise, gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, and if they have a Heartbound partner, they get a weapon proficiency of that character as well. They have ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, and add their Charisma bonus to AC while in light or no armor and unencumbered, which increases by +1 at 3rd level, and every 6 levels thereafter, for a total maximum of +3.
Wait, heartbound? Well, yeah, this class is all about the power of love, and as such further builds on Transcendent 10: Heartbound feats. As a brief recap: Heartbound feats require that both partners have a Heartbound feat to work…but they don’t have to have the SAME feat, which makes them more flexible than, say, teamwork feats. Speaking of which: At first level, the paramour selects a heartbound, teamwork or combat feat as a bonus feat, with an additional feat gained at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Teamwork feats must be shared by the partner, though they may be retrained as Forlorn feats (see Transcendent 10: Forlorn Feats).
The unique component of the class engine here would be “Tides of Passion”, which builds on the new “Ardent” condition – this condition is triggered upon seeing the Heartbound partner take damage, gain a negative condition, or by dropping beneath 50% of your maximum hp. This condition is exclusive to beings with Heartbound feats or paramour levels, and grants a +1 morale bonus to saving throws “or -2 versus mind-affecting emotion effects” – pretty sure that this should either read “or a +2 morale bonus…” or “and a -2 penalty…” Which of these is correct, though? I can’t say. Being ardent for more than Constitution modifier + paramour levels leaves a character fatigued. This is problematic on several levels. For one, the condition is not actively triggered by a character – RAW it just happens. This potentially can lock out e.g. Heartbound barbarians out of their rage…which, come to think of it, kinda makes sense on a narrative level, guess I finally know why Conan took so long to settle down. However, on a mechanical perspective, being locked out of your class feature due to fatigue is not fun. Additionally, the condition specifies no terms by which you can dismiss/end it – so, if you’re stuck in a really long battle, you’re screwed, particularly since the fatigue incurred has no rage caveat – it has no duration, which makes it default to “until rested”; again, very problematic.
Anyhow, tides of passion grants you a 1d4 pool, which increases by +1d4 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. When you get the ardent condition, you roll your dice, and commit the result as a free action. At first level, these may be committed as temporary hit points. Complaint here: As temporary hit points, they should have a caveat that prevents their redistribution to avoid abuse via triggering of negative condition-ardent and infinite hit point redistribution.
Starting at 2nd level, and ever even level thereafter, the paramour receives a so-called expression. Multiple expression benefits from multiple paramours don’t stack, and expressions that interact with psionics temporarily grant the psionic subtype. 17 expressions are provided. There is a means to add fire damage to melee or ranged attacks – and if you lose your love and become Forlorn, this instead works via cold. Channel heartfire lets you fire the committed points as rays, with the bonus to atk increasing the longer the expression is maintained. This should have a maximum caveat. On the other hand, I really liked the means that lets you apply the dice result as a shield bonus to your adjacent partner. There also is Heart’s Magic, which lets you choose one spellcasting class and spell. You can expend 2 points from your tides of passion per spell level to gain the ability to cast it as a spell-like ability, using your paramour class level as caster level. Each time you use this to create the same spell effect, you increase the cost by 1, and the spell can’t exceed in spell level the number of dice in your tides of passion pool. The ability can’t duplicate expensive material components. Minor nitpick (and I mean minor) – its reference to the same exhausted effect might be considered to be a bit subtle. While both are not perfect, I certainly respect how their engines operate, and frankly, enjoyed them both for their complex operations. The psionic version here is different, instead granting you Wild Talent and a power from a chosen class, with a surge-lite enervation as a downside.
Heart’s resolve acts as Iron Will for purposes of prerequisites, and lets you apply the tides of passion dice as a morale bonus to Will saves; alternatively, you can apply the dice as a bonus to damage with atk, SU, powers and spells versus the target that triggered ardent. Inspiring cry takes a swift action to activate, and allows you to outsource your tides of passion, heart’s redoubt or one expression benefits to an ally in close range, losing the benefits during that time, with lingering effects lingering on the ally instead of you. Another expression nets you a teamwork, with the heartbound partner counting as having it; with inspiring cry, you can make the partner actually have it as a swift action – okay, for how long? No duration is stated. We also have the option to gain an Intelligence-, Dexterity-, Charisma- or Strength-based skill as a class skill, to which the dice may apply. Another expression lets you use tides of passion dice as sneak attack dice for the purpose of prerequisites. Okay. Another expression lets you have a true friend, and you get Heartbound benefits for this fellow. Another expression allows you to commit two points from the pool to add a +1 morale bonus to attack rolls for 1 round. This one suffers from not getting the bonus type verbiage right – only the highest level morale bonus applies, and in the absence of a direct stacking with itself caveat, this does not work as intended.
Heartbound is gained at 3rd level (and the ability name is a bit unfortunately chosen); it also does not state at which level it is gained in the text, requiring defaulting to the class table. The ability nets you btw. a ranger’s Track or an at-will status for the heartbound partner. At 7th level, we have 1/day overflowing, allowing you to use a single swift action to commit tides points to temporary hit points and activate up to two expressions, gaining an additional use every 6 levels thereafter.
9th level nets the aforementioned lingering passion ability, which extends the duration of expressions and the temporary hit points by one round (two rounds at 17th level), which is odd in conjunction with spells, abilities and powers with a duration greater than a round – are these supposed to last only for a round? If not, is their duration increased by a round? This is odd. Starting at 10th level, 12 so-called greater expressions may be selected, including untyped damage boosts (*sigh*), temporary boosts to Wisdom, Intelligence, Dexterity or Constitution, granting the heartbound partner Wild Talent’s power points…yay? The power is RAW not included, and at 10th+ level, the scant few power points won’t cut it. These also include an upgrade for the atk-boost, better shield bonus granting, and a means to prevent the expenditure of spells/powers. There also is a Whirlwind Attack variant and more teamwork sharing.
There are three capstones provided, which include additional benefits, redirecting effects to you, away from your partner, and upgrades for magic.
The class comes with the narcissist archetype, basically a partner-less paramour with slightly better defenses and three unique expressions (regular, 10th level greater, capstone). It’s a decent system tweak, but not exciting. The pdf contains 20 Heartbound feats, and their balance is unfortunately as wonky as I feared. While in psychic or telepathic contact with your partner, and the fellow gets psionic focus, you can “roll to achieve psionic focus.” In Pathfinder, you don’t roll to gain your psionic focus. Even if the details in the verbiage worked, though, this’d be broken, as it can be used to bypass one of the most crucial balancing components of the psionics engine; at the very least, this should be level 15+. What about free heightening/extending of spells etc. whenever your partner targets you? On the other hand, we have the option to select a single spell from the partner for the tides of passion-granted spellcasting. Filial Devotion allows you to treat an ally as being heartbound to you. I did like the synergy with the Echo-class that one yielded. Being able to cast personal effects on the partner is super strong for multiclass characters (since the feat does not limit the ability to the paramour’s lite-spellcasting)…you get the idea. Puzzling: There is a rage-sharing feat that seems to have overlooked how the ardent condition and rage don’t work with each other. Beyond these heartbound feats, we have also 3 class feats that allow for split expressions, gain an extra expression – you get the idea.
The final page is devoted to a huge list f favored class options, which include exotic races like the darakhul, the psionic races, noral, vishkanyas, etc. Some entries here labor under the misconception of there being a thing such as “holy” damage – there is not. Other than such snafus, these generally did tend to be solid.
This is an early work by Christen N. Sowards, and it unfortunately shows; where the echo class was rough around the edges, but functional, the paramour’s issues at the very core of its per se interesting engine hamper its functionality. Additionally, its individual options, be they expressions or feats, are simply not balanced well. And that is a genuine pity, for I really ADORE the theme of the devoted partner; I think we need more of that in gaming. And the bits of genuine talent and smart components? They are here. This class is far from unsalvageable, but it will require a serious design addendum to work as intended. All in all, I can’t recommend this class, unless you’re willing to invest your time balancing and streamlining the content. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This expansion for Star Empires clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 48 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
In many ways, this supplement is the all but mandatory expansion to the Star Empires-system, as we this time around take a close look at space combat, so yeah, Star Empires is very much required.
We begin the supplement with 3 new themes – the commander (Charisma +1), the Dog-Fighter (Dexterity +1) and the Jury-Rigger (Intelligence +1); minor nitpick: Resolve Points and Skills are capitalized in SFRPG, and not all of the theme abilities do that consistently correctly; in fact, there are a whole lot of instances throughout the book where skills etc. are not properly formatted. I’ll be calling out a few of those to give you an idea, but not all of them. That being said, there are quite a few remarkable tricks here – 12th level commanders being able to change command boons? That’s quite a potent (and cool) thing; that being said, Master Dog-Fighter’s level 18 ability, for example, is overpowered and exploitable: After you serve as pilot or gunner, you recover 1 Resolve Point. No cap. This is in so far puzzling, as Starfinder has the significant foe-mechanic, and imposes a hard cap on a similar theme ability, namely the master pilot’s level 18 theme ability; and the other theme abilities do not suffer from this – master jury-rigger, the level 18 theme ability, actually has such a proper cap in place, for example.
The pdf then proceeds to present 7 new feats: Arcing Shot is ridiculously strong, as it lets you be treated as standing in an adjacent square or hex for the purpose of determining line of effect for ranged attacks or gunnery checks. The feat ahs no prerequisites, when it clearly should at least have Mobility and an alternate feat as prerequisites – you add 9 squares/hexes to where you can fire from, and can do so as soon as first level. Thankfully, this broken feat remains the exception – the others include options to attempt to teleport into starships, enhancers for the combat engine, the means to substitute BAB for skills in ship combat, better bypassing of hardness, and the option to spend a Resolve Point (not capitalized properly) in starship combat to take 10. So yeah, apart from Arcing Shot, which needs to be seriously nerfed or burned to the ground, the feats are cool and meaningful.
Next up are 7 new spells, two of which are mass versions of spells; these do take the (imho problematic) Starfarer’s Companion’s classes by Rogue Genius Games into account, should you be using that book; the spells are technomancer and Starfarer classes only, so no new material for mystics. (Odd, considering that a couple of the spells are on e.g. the cleric spell list.) Anyhow, we have a couple of rather interesting ones – conjure starship pulls together a tier ¼ starship sans weapons, and requires a Resolve Point; minor nitpick: Starfinder formats the means to cast spells at higher levels different than what it displayed here: The spell can be cast at +3 spell levels for a better starship. Disrupt function and its mass version allow you to glitch and malfunction starship systems with a caster level check opposed by the ship’s TL; pretty potent, but held in check by the necessity to expend a Resolve Point. Enhance ship is pretty awesome, as it nets temporary build points for 1 minute/level; for 5 Resolve Points, high-level technomancers can even completely reshape ships in an 8-hour ceremony – cool! Finally, there would be restrain vessel and its mass version, with a proper Piloting check to break free. These spells add some serious fantasy into the science-fantasy, and as a whole, I found myself enjoying them very much, in spite of the minor formatting hiccups.
The book then presents 8 new starship stunts, which include rules for planetary re-entry. There also are proper ramming rules, as well as clinging, escaping and propelling the vessels – essentially a means to grapple with ships, and e.g. Stern Drifts and thruster backwash? Cool! Bouncing off of shields of other ships is also iconic, but to nitpick, the DC notes “DC 20 + 1.5 the ship’s tier” – the piloted ship, or the once you bounce off of? I assume the former, but this is still ambiguous semantics. Cool: The book also introduces the invoker starship role, a role I very much enjoyed seeing – it adds some tactical depth and makes sense. Kudos for this one.
Okay, this out of the way, let us take a look at squad ship combat. This assumes, generally, one ship per character. The book suggests removing the -2 penalty for Snap Shots in the context of squad combat, and the engine introduced the hack job minor crew action. (Minor nitpick once more – it’s minor crew action, not minor action.)
The book then introduces 5 mks of ablative armor – which is essentially a form of DR that applies versus kinetic and energy attacks, but which degrades with every hit, and armor hardened versus radiation? Makes sense. I very much liked these! The book then introduces damage control systems, which includes damage repair bots (DRBs) and automated damage control system (ADCS), both once more in 5 mk-ratings, with essentially virtual Engineering ranks. These made sense to me, and speaking of which: Decoy and Ghost drones, the latter of which mimic essentially a phantom signal of a ship? Yeah, I smiled a big smile here! 7 expansion bays are provided, and include cryosleep chamber, dimensional lockdowns, teleportation bays, etc. Weapon expansion bears close watching: It lets you install a weapon of one size category larger than normal, and costs just 2 BP: This means that the expansion allows smaller ships to feature bigger guns, which outclass all comparable other weaponry of the other categories. An upgrade from a light particle beam (10 PCU, 10 BP) to a heavy laser cannon (10 PCU, 8 BP, +2 BP for weapon mount) would increase your damage output from 3d6 to 4d8 – for NO INCREASED COST in BP or PCU. You don’t have to be a numbers wizard to notice that this is problematic. Yes, it costs an expansion bay, but it provides massive combat-related benefits for that. This needed playtesting and nerfing, this needed to have higher costs. Compare that to the other options, like boarding passages, planar travel lockdowns etc. – those are primarily acting to narrative tools. Though it should be noted that the dimensional lockdown should imho have a caveat that allows for caster level checks or the like to bypass them, but one can argue that the 2-hex range of the lockdown makes for a sufficient limitation there.
On the other side, e.g. having essentially a transformer ship? Heck YES!! Speaking of “heck yeah” – external aides with localized gravity outside and the like? Yes, I love those! We also get three new hulls, and the (multibody) hull descriptor, which denotes a group of ships of Small or Tiny size, somewhat akin to a starship swarm. There also are rules for regenerative hulls, with the BP cost ranging from 1 x size category (1 Hull Point, not properly capitalized in the book) to 7 x size category for 5 Hull Points per round. This occurs at the start of the engineering phase. I do not think that these should have no PCU costs. They should. Particularly since Hull Points generally tend to be harder to replenish. And yes, it does note that it best works for organic starships, but yeah – I’d seriously restrict that to GM ships only.
On the security side, we have cloaking fields, dimensional and divinatory shielding, exterior antipersonnel weapons, and the like – the cloaking field’s high BP costs here are chosen well – you won’t be doing stealthy reconnaissance with heavily arm(or)ed ships. Star Trek-ish means to use dimensional analytics to enable crew to teleport on board of target or locked on ships is nice, and its increased costs mean that they do not invalidate e.g. boarding passages. Still, chances are that you probably will favor one of these two options, and disallow the other – it’s different aesthetics. Cool: We also get terrain adaptations.
The weapon section includes Star Crash (I need to watch that classic again!) like boarding pods, jammer rockets and observer missiles? Interesting: Marker cannons and frickin’ ORBITAL WEAPONS and an array of super deadly ramming weapons! Yeah, there are some gems here. And yes, there are plenty of starship weapon-rules, such as contagious weaponry. Unfortunately, there are instances here where the author makes some errors in rules terminology that can be rather confusing: For example, the celestial quality mentions “radiant energy damage”, which does not exist in Starfinder. Granted, the pdf makes this behave as irradiate versus evil outsiders and undead, but it also notes that it’s penetrating shielding and hulls, which makes rules-interaction weird. More confusing, there is a radiant special property (see SF #7), so this is not only the wrong terminology and non-existent damage type, it also confuses what “radiant” means in established SFRPG rules parlance. Draining weapons are also exceedingly potent, and interesting, if the hit and deal at least 1 Hull Point damage, they cost a ship hit 10% of its PCU output until the next engineering phase, stacking up to 50% - but here, I can see the interesting angle the weapons’ power adds to the game: It provides a reason to NOT try to get most out of your PCU. As per SFRPG’s core book, components not powered renders systems inactive, so yeah, like this. The starship weapon upgrades are interesting for the most part, though the long-range weapon modification (2 PCU, 1 BP) is a bit underpriced.
Okay, so next up, we have rules for dealing with characters battling starships – and vice versa. And yes, you won’t be soloing starships a lot. They are super deadly for tiny little characters, and the rules represent that – including appreciated notes that such scenarios need to handled with care. Two thumbs up here! Same goes for the starship-scale monsters (with e.g. world-eaters and miasma kraken included); we also get an adaptation of the troop, depicted as a graft. Artillery bracer rules are also provided alongside ones for planetary shielding. Did I mention rocket fists for powered armor?
Alrighty, and now it’s time to take a look at the mass combat rules! We not only get a brief errata for Star Empires, we also have army equipment and starship rules for mass combat! Starships are organized in fleets, with a CR of 10 + tier, rounded down, minimum 10, and a properly defined array on inherent abilities that all starships have, including weaknesses. The integration of ships in the system is surprisingly simple, smooth and elegant. The book also presents some ideas for multi-layer mass combat and more than 10 new tactics to teach to fleet and armies, and as briefly mentioned previously, we do have command boons herein as well, with a couple of them being very strong: Using RV instead of MV, for example? That’s a very potent boon when compared to a +2 MV or RV versus armies that suffer a penalty to DV. A couple of immunity special abilities are provided as well.
Much to my joy, siege weapon rules have also been included here, and while we’re at it: The simulationalist in me cheered big time for acceleration movement rules, as they make simply more sense to me – plus, they’re easy to implement, and add tactical depth! The book also provides alternatives to Profession for the purpose of mass combat, with two pages helpful starship DC-action tables in two difficulty levels makes for nice options here. Easier and more lethal modifications to the engine are provided as well, and from scaled ship combat to simplified mass combat, there are more options here that I really enjoyed seeing.
Speaking of which: Don’t have the time and/or inclination to stat a ton of armies and fleets? Fret not, for the book closes on a high note, with 19 sample builds, ranging from ACR 8 to 30.
This book by Matt Daley, Mark Hart and Jason Nelson was an odd duck for me: It’s on the one hand the work of obviously very talented designers, and features not one, but several rules and option that had me smiling from ear to ear; and when it operates within its closed system of mass combat, it operates very well; the use of starships in regular scale etc. is another big plus, and as a whole, there are plenty of things herein that I’ll be using time and again. This book features components with top ten candidate level of coolness, and more than once. This has lots of truly inspired, top-tier material inside.
However, on the other hand, the book also feels rushed in a few ways – from formatting not being as precise to more serious strikes against it: There are several rules-components that are easy to cheese, overpowered, and/or obviously should have seen some thorough playtesting to iron off the rough patches – and I mean seriously “rough” – the book doesn’t falter a lot, but when it does, it does so in a way that is noticeable on a rules and balance level. In a way, this could have easily been an EZG Essentials-must-have-level book, but in its current iteration, I can’t recommend it as universally as I’d very much like to.
To make this abundantly clear: This is a book, chock-full with things to love; but it’s also a book that needs some very careful scrutiny by the GM, for there are options herein that will unbalance the game if introduced as written. It is the accumulation of these flaws that deprives this book of the accolades I would have heaped upon it otherwise. My final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Pop Culture Catalog-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
As always, we begin this supplement with an explanation of the fandom rules that serve as a backbone for the series – and since I’ve already covered a few of these, I won’t recap them right now.
We begin with 8 fully fleshed out alcohol producer brands you can find in the Xa-Osoro system – as always, these have excellent full-color logos (!!) for each company provided – and while I usually try to provide some nods on the clever twists of the real world companies that acted as inspiration for these, being German, I feel I’m not too familiar with the inspirations behind these companies this time around. That being said, even without this meta-angle, I found myself enjoying what’s here, so let me take you on a brief tour, shall we? The Barrelchest clan (dwarves, obviously) is an old-school dwarven operation – costly (x2.5 price modifier), but the council-run brewery is old-school and dedicated to classic recipes – as a Franconian, I can get behind old-school beer executed well. Fans of this company are known among dwarves for their excellent taste, gaining a +3 insight bonus to Bluff and Diplomacy, and cool: Ingesting the brew enhances Athletics and initiative in a manner that scales for fans, keeping the benefit relevant at higher levels. If the Barrelchests represent traditional beer craftsmanship, Xiks-Zavin is more of a mega-brewery – kobold-run, it is famed for its Heirlag signature brew, and you can get it anywhere, with the fandom benefit helping further with Diplomacy.
Prefer wine? The Goldenbrooke winery is run by elves, with the matriarch establishing the brand as something for the elite (price modifier x3), and as such, fans have an easier time passing as a being of high social class. The Vixen baijiu and sake brewery is, unsurprisingly, run by kitsune, and fans will have an easier time dealing with Culture checks pertaining to races like vanara, kitsune, etc., and have an easier time changing their attitudes.
Minos Imbroglio would be a whiskey distillery (price x2) for the thinking man, fans gaining benefits to trying to solve complex puzzles and conundrums. Robogogo is less pricey (price modifier x1.5) and is a mechanoi-run combination brewery distillery – which features nanites that allow synthetic consumers to get drunk via scripts! And yes, organic life also can experience that. This is a cool concept, and synthetic life benefits further from being a fan here- Cheaper still, the combination brewery/distillery Uncle Uglee’s focuses on quick and cheap booze, but is also a storied company, which helps fans deal with gnolls. Finally, there would be the expensive (x2.5 price modifier) Rotgut company – a vrutloggery. What’s that, you ask? Well, know how vesk are pretty much carnivores? Picture adding yeast to caramelized meat, and making thus alcohol from the controlled rotted meat. This might sound weird, but to me, this sounds at least interesting…but then again, I’m a weirdo and love me some Bamberg smoked beer, which tastes pretty much like liquid bacon crossed with beer. Fans will benefit from imbibing by having their melee and thrown weapon capabilities enhanced.
And yes, the fandom perks essentially all add benefits to imbibing the respective brew, but what about the brews? Well, know how the excellent installment on Vice Dens (which you SHOULD own!) has introduced a scaling drug engine that allows a given item to increase over the item levels, instead of being fixed on a single item level? Guess what? This system is employed here as well, and we not only get one or two different drinks – unless I’ve miscounted, 35 (!!) drinks are included, and range from three whiskey types to different baijius. Ale hydrates you and fortifies vs. emotion effects, while beer helps you with contest skill challenges; lichbrew beer is alcohol for the undead and nets you scaling SR, while dwarven stout provides temporary DR 5/- against nonlethal damage. Regular stouts help with Strength- and Dexterity-based skill challenge checks. Interesting: Several of these also bestow their benefits upon certain intoxication stages, for example cider, which nets you bonuses when weakened or further along the track. Speaking of intoxication: There is a cool sidebar that does explain how intoxication can be thought of and represented in Starfinder.
Horilka fortifies against negative emotions and makes you susceptible to merriment; not all are helpful, though: Jamboozal juice is cheap, and gets you drunk fast – essentially a fruit-based moonshine. Mind-eraser liqueur can fortify you against mind-affecting effects, and mescal helps against fear – and helps with atk and skill checks if you’re sufficiently inebriated. Skittermander skitterseq is cool: If you’re far enough along the poison track, you’re under haste. Get that. Haste. That spell and being drunk? I’d so love to see the hilarious outcomes of that combination in real life…the Nova Age can’t come soon enough. And yes, I am just giving you a general overview of these cool brews!
Alexander Augunas’ delivers big time in this amazing installment; the drinks are amazing, their benefits balanced and yet tangible – and surprisingly differentiated. I was seriously enjoying reading this humble pdf, and after the great Vice Den-file, this represents a must-own expansion to the subject matter. I mean, while we should all drink responsibly, the same doesn’t hold true for our characters, right? With plausible effects for mundane alcohol and brews breathing the spirit of science-fantasy side by side, this pdf is a resounding success. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this shares the Vice Den-files’ status as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019; the combination of those two? Gold.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
Okay, so, now that I’ve finished covering the entirety of the Book of Beyond series at the request of my patreon supporters, let’s talk about the subscription/bundle offering as a whole. If you want to see detailed reviews of the components, check out the individual reviews – if you click on the “Book of Beyond”-tag on my homepage (or search for it, you’ll have them all conveniently listed.
The greatest weakness of the series, as a whole, is that it mainly suffers from its editing not being as precise as it’d deserve to be; there are a lot of little niggles to complain about, and yes, there are a few options herein that imho go too far regarding power-levels.
That being said, Christen N. Sowards’ massive Book of Beyond series is genuinely much better than I expected from the small indie outfit that is Lost Spheres Publishing. He has not only grown as an author here, he has retained a core strength of his designs: Never be boring.
The Book of Beyond series manages to tickle out a lot of new and innovative concepts out of good ole’ Pathfinder’s first edition, and it genuinely displays a love for third party content, for subsystems.
And, of course, there is the question of bang for buck. You get two really creative, high-concept mythic paths, a ton of cool occult and psionic material, and then there is the massive luminal power book, which is itself chock-full with creative and experimental options; not all of these may be for every game, but for those looking for something creative, such as the Liminal Gestalt-lite engine? Heck, you will grin from ear to ear.
I won’t be using the entirety of this series in a given game, but I sure as hell will continue using content from this series. In fact, in spite of the massive amount of work that analyzing this was, I found myself genuinely enjoying my time spent analyzing this.
If you and your group consider yourself to be veterans of Pathfinder’s first edition, do yourself a favor and check this out – it may be rough around the edges, but it genuinely rewards you for sticking with it. In spite of my OCD-frustration with the editing snafus and glitches, I found myself looking forward to returning to this series time and again, and each of the books sports several components I sure as hell will be using. And yes, this series requires that a GM be capable of assessing the power of individual options in the context of their game – as noted, many options herein reveal their full potential in the hands of capable players.
So yeah, this is rough; it’s not perfect, but I have always preferred ambition and innovation over formally perfect, but safe and boring files. As such, my final verdict for the entire series will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Book of Beyond-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 6.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 29.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
All right, after a brief introduction to the concept of power source origins, we start with lists of psionic powers, organized by classes, then levels. Particularly fans of the cryptic and dread will be rather happy to note quite a bunch of material for their classes. It should be noted that different classes might have different power point costs for the powers herein. Why are source origins relevant? Well, for example, disruption shield nets resistance bonuses to saving throws versus effects from a given source – the augment btw. allows for additional source origins to be specified, increase the bonus, or manifest the power as an immediate action. Duality lets you select an additional source origin, making your psionic abilities count as though drawing from that as well. What about imprinting a spell from one spellcaster to another sharing the same source? Or care for source interdiction, which locks out one source? Yeah, the latter in particular makes a lot more sense to me than the default flat antimagic shield. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s take a look at more of those powers, shall we? Actify penumbra lets you lace shadow plane effects in shadow creatures, shadow spell- or fear-effects, and on the following round, damage caused by the targeted effect or creature takes 2d6 additional damage; shadow creatures also get a boost to saving throws and natural armor – the boost to saving throws is not properly codified regarding bonus type, but the power does come with two different augments. Very cool, on the other hand – amplified occlusion targets a creature and makes it perceive cover etc. as larger; astral epiphany nets a summoned creature a combat feat for which it qualifies, and with the augment, you can add feats on top of that, using the original feat granted by the power as a prerequisite for the follow up feats. HOWEVER, these follow-up feats RAW do NOT qualify for further prerequisites, so you still can’t get an entire feat-tree this way.
There are also some tactically potent high-level tricks herein, like astral redirection, which allows you to redirect spells, powers and supernatural ability with a touch range. I love this, though its per se precise rules-language is missing an “if”, which can render understanding it a bit tougher than it should be. This is, alas, not the only instance of such a glitch: In the next power, we have a “level” missing – it might be obvious what “1st astral construct” means to some, but I can also see this cause confusion. Diversify summons is an interesting one that lets you change summon monster/nature’s ally critters called forth, with augments allowing you to affect higher spell level versions. I like it, because it can be used defensively and offensively, and the augments allow you to take control as well – and yes, unwilling summoners get a save. What about using summoned creatures to erupt with force damage. This can be very, very strong when handled in a smart manner, but is solidly situated and requires setting up.
Autoarchive is interesting, in that it allows you to engrave a SPELL (not, that’s not a typo!) Spell Mastery style in the astral plane – and this can be [Network]’d, and with augment and power points expended, you can overwrite your prepared spells with encoded ones and encode higher level spells. What about cleric/oracle-specific buffs? Yeah, notice something? These powers don’t operate exclusively in the psionics paradigm – they are explicitly designed to provide interesting interactions with other classes. What about the immediate action dweomerfreeze, which lets you suspend spell effects with a proper manifester level check– and personal spell effects may be defrozen; this can allow for some serious cool tactical combos. This is so cool, save that it should probably specify that the manifester level check is against the target’s caster level check, or 10 + caster level. RAW, the check is against the caster level, which is ridiculous and would allow even a mid-level character suspend a level 20 caster’s effect. Then again, that MAY be intended, considering it’s a 4th/5th level power, so in dubio pro reo applies.
Speaking of interesting: There is a psionic variant of mirror image, called dusk duplicants – the interesting thing here, beyond augments, is that there is another power that allows you to lace spells or powers in your duplicants, which release upon the duplicant’s destruction. In the hands of tactically-minded, clever players (or NPCs!) this can be gold. Speaking of which: What about an echo-class style mimicking of effects, save that it’s a quasi-real [shadow]-version? Or what about a shadow-based blue magic style ability that is strenuous on the manifester, but lets you gain low-CR supernatural abilities? Indeed, the themes of light and dark add a unique dimension here: With echoed illumination, you can target a shadow magic effect, and generate an illumination double of the effect – the less real the shadow effect, the more real the illumination effect will be: If a shadow effect, for example, is 30% real, the illumination double will be 70% real. This is potent, and another example of unique combo tricks championed herein. Super interesting: There is a power that lets you gain an idea of a proposed course of action for one round, making future shadows one of the most GM-friendly and yet super useful clairsentience/divination effects I’ve seen in a while. Kudos!
Cool: What about a low-level means to get psychoprosthetics? That power is so cool, I think it could carry its own archetype. Using power points to replenish your ally’s spells, scattering senses to see through multiple realities…did I mention the massive 4 shadow infusion powers? These can instill descriptor-based weaknesses, decrease how real targets are, erode their defenses, etc. What about rendering incorporeal targets corporeal? Or what about forcing a transitive plane to overlap with yours temporarily? Or what about making effects less real? This is a pretty damn awesome selection of powers.
Christen N. Sowards never does boring or redundant – and this holds true herein more than I expected it to. This book provides a broadening of psionics in themes, with particularly the transitive planes becoming more important; the source mechanics, as noted before in my reviews of Lost Spheres Publishing books, makes sense to me as well. The powers herein are rarely straightforward – and are better off for it. These are made for tactical combo gameplay and emphasize the tactics of the party, emphasize cooperative aspects of the game, and I genuinely love seeing that. Conversely, the power level of these powers is often very much contingent on the system mastery of your group: In the hands of the right group, these can deliver devastating, brutal combos; that being said, you’ll have to work for those. There is a great reward ratio for smart players here, and while powerful, I personally really, really liked this book.
If this had received a thorough sanding off of its rough patches, this’d be a 5 stars + seal of approval file, but as provided, I can’t go higher than 4.5 stars. If you don’t mind the typos and small glitches, round up; otherwise, round down. Personally, I’ll round up due to in dubio pro reo, and due to plenty of these effects making me come up with some seriously cool strategies for my adversaries…
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This supplement for Starfinder clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in ym reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.
So, this book builds on the “kingdom”-building style engine presented in Star Empires – it is, in a way, the Ultimate Intrigue to Star Empires’ Ultimate Campaign, to draw some PFRPG-analogues. As such, I assume familiarity with Star Empires in this review.
In more details: We begin with rules for factions: Factions have an alignment, with Lawful factions gaining +2 to resources, Chaotic factions gaining +2 to power; Good factions get +2 to reputations, Evil ones get +2 to power; Neutral factions get +1 to both resources and reputation. Now, as you all know by now, I am NOT a fan of alignment – and this pdf does oblige, which is a big plus: Instead of using the simplistic alignment angle, Ethos can be used: A table with traits, bonuses and opposing traits is provided, allowing for more nuanced gameplay – love this!
A given nation may have any number of factions, but if the combined size of all factions exceeds 10 times the nation size, it does get Unrest +1 during the Upkeep phase, representing a splintering of identity – and providing, obviously, a justification to eliminate factions… Not every type of faction will be represented in a nation, but all nations should have a Civil faction representing the citizens, a judicial one to represent the rulers. Factions have a goal, obviously.
The term “operation” is used to denote a task a faction can choose during the faction turn. Factions have 3 types of “ability modifier” analogues – power, reputation, and resources. Size denotes, well, size – one point represents approximately 25 individuals; this is an arbitrary number, though – you could easily use e.g. 1000 as a number instead to track massive factions, but you need to make sure that factions all use the same scale. Factions receive a modifier to faction checks equal to 1/10th of the faction’s size, rounded down. Tension is somewhat akin to a faction’s Unrest – it denotes a penalty that is applied to all faction checks – 1 for every 10 tension points the faction has. If tension reduces a faction modifier below zero, the faction splinters. Certain types of operations and things happening can increase or decrease tension.
A faction’s wealth is measured in Wealth Points (WP), with 10 WP roughly approximating 1 BP. Here are a couple of observations – the supplement, oddly, refers to credits by the opaque “cp”-term, which is confusing; the book should refer to credits, or at least properly explain that. Secondly, I’m pretty positive that something is very wrong in the conversion rates from WP to BP to credits. A WP here is noted to only be worth 400 credits, which is RIDICULOUS. It becomes even worse when using this and extrapolating the conversion to Star Empires sizes, as that leaves you with an empire’s starting budget clocking in at less costs than many high-level weapons. Something went horribly wrong here, and since the latter sub-chapters reference, multiple times, how characters can purchase WP, this glitch remains persistent and compromises a core component of the engine. There was a reason for there NOT being such a conversion rate in Star Empires. After some cursory math, I’d recommend making a WP cost AT LEAST 4,000 credits; if you’re like me and like round numbers, 5,000. Just my two cents.
A faction begins with 10 WP and a size of 0; infrastructure will increase the size, and factions of size 1+ can launch operations, earn income and increase its size. If a faction is reduced to size 0, it can only undergo the recruitment operation.
Faction checks are rolled by using a d20 and adding the relevant faction’s attribute, with default DC being 15; 1s are automatic failures, 20s automatic successes, and factions may not take 10 or 20 on faction checks. The pdf presents a total of 10 faction types, ranging from trade to military, and also presents brief guidelines for the GM to build new types of factions. The type determined, we have to think about secrecy states – factions can be open, covert, or disguised.
As noted before, factions can have one or more goals – these may be public or secret, and consist of an Aim, a Scale, and a Subject. The Aim is classified in 4 rough categories: Control, Boost, Reduce and Eliminate. There are 6 different scales to consider, from individual to international, and all of them as well as public/secret goals influence the DC of the faction check, as a handy table summarizes.
Faction turns happen during the nation turn sequence, after the Edict phase, and the results of the faction turn come into place before the Income phase. The sequence in which the factions act in a turn is determined by a Power-check as a kind of initiative, acting in reverse order. In the instance of a tie, the smaller faction goes first.
The faction turn begins with the Upkeep Phase: If tension reduced an attribute below zero, the faction has to check for splintering; after that, the faction pays its size in WP as upkeep costs; after that, wealth is added first by characters (here, the credit-conversion-issue once again rears its ugly head), then by Resources checks. After this, Operations phase begins: The faction size determines the maximum number of contiguous faction operations a faction can undertake at once. Launching an operation costs the operation’s cost. Operations are classified in two types – only one type of active operation may be performed in a given turn, but maintenance operations may be performed more often. A total of 16 such operations are presented.
Just like they can influence the course of nations, so can they interact with individuals – their relation to individuals can be easily tracked with 5 positive and negative ranks, all of which have their own name and explanation provided. – having a positive rank of 5 means you’re in control of the faction, having a negative rank of 5 means that you’re anathema. Gaining and loss of influence points are presented in a concise and easy to grasp manner, and, as you could probably glean, there is a more fine-grained way to describe interactions with factions – namely influence points. Thresholds for ranks are provided, and in a rather cool way, faction size once again comes into play, with larger factions making rising to the top progressively harder.
Factions can grant favors, which the PCs may cash in – borrowed resources, gathering information, etc. 30 such favors are presented, and some of them get their own table that differentiates between influence ranks and the extent of the favor. To illustrate this issue, and how the credit-formula imho yields persistently odd results: Borrow Resources, for example nets you resource times 20 credits on rank 1, while rank 5 nets you resources times 5000 credits. For comparison – the largest sample faction herein is a megacorp with a size of 467, which would yield the equivalent of 9340 credits borrowed at rank 1, while someone with a rank of 5 (which means “in control” of the faction), could borrow “only” 2,335,000 credits – a vast sum, sure, but for the CEOs of a megacorp? That’s only slightly more than two level 20 armors. Sure, impressive, and maybe I’m too strongly influenced by Shadowrun, but that’s still not a sum that impresses me, particularly considering that the resources are borrowed. In PFRPG, this would have been a very impressive sum indeed; in SFRPG? Less so. You can’t even outfit a whole high-level party with state of the art armor. The command team a rank 5 fellow can send out? It’s CR 10. All in all, these don’t feel right to me; further delineation and a finer differentiation between ranks, with higher ranks/benefits for larger factions would have been prudent here.
The same, partially, hold true for the hazards, i.e. the negative things a faction can do to the PCs and instigate to hamper them, but, courtesy to the more narrative focus here, it struck me as a slightly lesser issue. The pdf then proceeds to go through the process of creating factions for existing nations, and features a couple of sample factions for your convenience.
The second part of the book provides the SFRPG version of verbal duels: Getting to know an audience bias is a DC 15 Sense Motive check, which seems low to me; considering how skills balloon, this fixed DC, while subject to optional GM modification, seems low. Anyhow, seeding the audience is handled better, with a DC scaling by CR and a more pronounced manner – 1.5 times CR +15-20 is suggested as the top, which seems more feasible to me. This also allows for the seeding of edges, which may be used to reroll checks. A duelist has a Determination that consists of the highest mental ability score + total level or CR. Cool: Roleplaying has a serious influence here, with multipliers or divisors added to Determination depending on social advantage or disadvantage. Like it! Using the last tactic or repetitive tactics imposes a penalty on the associated skill check. A verbal duel consists of verbal exchanges.
At the start of an exchange, a duelist chooses a tactic for an opening, makes the associated skill check, and increases the ante for the exchange by 1. The current DC for the exchange is set to the result of the skill check. The opponent can choose to end the exchange, or increase the ante by 1, choose a tactic and roll the skill check. If it exceeds the previously set DC, then the argument continues and goes back to the instigator; if not, the exchange is lost, and the ante is deducted from the Determination score. Choosing to end the exchange nets the opponent one edge instead. 10 different tactics are provided with individual rules – it is here that tactical depth enters the fray. Personally, I think it’d have made sense to have an option to up the ante to speed up verbal duels. More circumstantial modifiers would have been nice as well, as Starfinder has greatly streamlined skills by CR in comparison with Pathfinder. Multidirectional and team duels are also touched upon, but as a whole, I think the engine could have used a bit more meat on its bones.
The pdf then proceeds to present rules for personal brands: A public personal brand has 6 facets ranked from 0 to 10; these are Charm, Genius, Heroism, Altruism, Acumen, Guile. These ranks may be used in place of the key ability modifier for the position’s associated ability score in related checks. Considering that the default NPC rules assume that +10 in an ability score is assigned to ~CR 16, this generally checks out regarding in-game logic. As you could glean from the conspicuous amount of facets, you determine starting ranks by checking your ability score – a value of 14 or higher nets you a rank in a facet, and appropriate behavior may net you more, depending on the GM’s decision. Each of the facets also has three skills assigned to them. The system for brands assumes a Trending Phase as an abstract turn, in which the characters leverage and build their reputation; in the context of Star Empires, this should happen once per nation turn; otherwise, there should be about 4 such phases per level. At the start of each such phase, PCs can determine one of two actions – developing the brand, or launching an engagement. Developing a brand is done as follows: Select a facet to improve, roll an associated skill check; on a success, increase the rank in the facet by 1. The DC is pretty low – 15 + twice the rank the PC is trying to achieve. This makes the maximum DC 35 – high, sure, but also an assured victory starting at the higher middle level-range. I kinda wished the system scaled better.
Anyhow, a personal brand nets the PCs twice the starting number of facet ranks as agents; these can be directed to undertake engagements. At higher facet ranks, admirers, skill bonuses and the like enter the fray, and more complex engagements may be undertaken. Rank 5 nets an accomplice – basically a cohort-style henchman at CR-2. Engagements are classified in three groups: Basic engagements are unlocked at rank 2, intermediate engagements at rank 6, and advanced engagements at rank 9. Engagements have fixed DCs and success is determined by rolling a d20 and adding the number of agents tasked with it, up to a maximum of the respective facet’s rank. Natural 1s are always failures, natural 20s always a success. A PC may have one persistent engagement in effect (DC 17), and some are risky – the latter can result in agent loss. All engagements are associated with one or more facets. All in all, I liked this system.
The final page of the pdf presents 4 new feats: Adept Leader treats your ability score to affect an empire’s attribute as two higher and nets a bonus to Stability. Center of Power is cool, in that it lets you use your personal brand accomplice to survey an infrastructure, which provides serious benefits. Effective Operator grants your faction once per faction turn a bonus equal to one of your mental ability score modifiers. Fortunate Leader lets you reroll during the event phase on the empire or colony table and choose the result. The decision to roll twice must be made beforehand, though.
The conclusion of my review can be found here!
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, ½ a page SRD, leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was move up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
We begin with a recap of the gillmen’s heritage and the pdf also includes the racial traits of the species. We get three alternate racial traits: One replaces being amphibious with 3/day charm person (not properly italicized) as a SP; alternatively, they can reduce land speed to 10 ft., but get 50 ft. swim speed. Interesting: There is a trait that nets you fast healing of 1 hit point per minute, but at a serious cost – you can only ever spend 3 hours outside of water before death from organ failure, escalating the water dependent trait. The supplement also features an array of favored class options for alchemist, arcanist, barbarian, bloodrager (aberrant bloodline), druid, kineticist, occultist, paladin, psychic, ranger, sorcerer (aberrant bloodline), vigilante and witch. All in all, these check out – they are potent, but not unduly so – relevant options to have.
The pdf contains 4 new feats: Aboleth’s Pawn increases enchantment resistance to +4, and the penalty vs. such effects from Aboleth sources to -4. You also are treated as having Skill Focus Knowledge (dungeoneering) for meeting the prerequisites of the Eldritch Heritage (aberrant) feats or other feats with it as a prerequisite. Water-retentive Skin nets you a longer deadline before requiring immersion in water – kudos: No this may not be used to cheese the potent fast healing alternate racial trait. Remembered Legacy lets you count as human and nets you the human subtype. There is an issue here – what if an effect would benefit gillmen, but penalize humans? This should specify how such cases work. Communal Mind-Gridding is a teamwork feat nets you +1 to saves vs. mind-.affecting effects for every ally with this feat within 30 ft., maximum +4.
The pdf contains 2 archetypes, with the first being the sea sentinel cleric, who is locked into the oceans subdomain, and does not get a second domain. The save DC of spells with the water descriptor increase by 1, and the archetype gets +1 to atk rolls of spells or abilities with the water descriptor, including explicitly the surge domain ability. The bonus increases by +1 at 10th and 20th level. The archetype can heal any aquatic or water subtype creatures, or command them with channel energy, as though per the Command Undead feat. 4th level gets rid of underwater combat penalties, including a limited range where ranged attacks take no penalty – the range of the latter ability increases. 7th level nets an animal companion as a druid at -3 levels, but the companion needs to be aquatic/water subtype. Essentially, a shepherd of the waves style archetype.
The second archetype is more extensive – the ephemeral visionary medium replaces the default spirits with 3 destinies – history, nonce and fate; these otherwise behave as though they were spirits. The spirit bonus of history applies to Charisma checks and Charisma-based skill checks as well as Fortitude saves, and the Séance boon nets +2 to attacks with non-spell attacks. Influence penalty applies to Dexterity-related checks and Reflex saves, and the taboos including refusing aid or harmless spells, an inability to let insults stand, or demanding half the treasure. The lesser ability nets martial weapon proficiency and Weapon Focus with said weapon. Intermediate nets you a teamwork feat that you may share with all allies within 30 ft. temporarily as a standard action, and it may be used again when accepting influence. The greater ability further enhances the weapon skill with the weapon chosen via the lesser ability, and the supreme ability nets a hefty +6 to all physical ability scores, which can be triggered as a swift action – essentially, this one acts as a warrior-suite.
Nonce applies the spirit bonus to Wisdom checks and Wisdom-based skill checks, as well as, oddly, reflex save. Expected to see Will there, but I assume intention here, since Fate applies the bonus to Will. The séance boon nets you swim speed. Influence penalty sees you paranoid that the aboleth masters will get you, preventing aid another and imposing spirit bonus as a penalty to Charisma-based checks and skill checks. Taboos include slaying all aberrations on sight, not leaving the water for more than an hour or sell at least 1/3 of what you find. The spirit abilities include seeing in water and create water as a 0-level spell (should be called knack); intermediate nets you favored terrain +2 as though a ranger, +4 if you choose water, and hydraulic push as a first level medium spell. The greater ability nets ranged disarm or steal under water a limited amount of times (accept influence for more uses) and slipstream as a 2nd-level spell. The supreme ability nets you the option to generate 5 supercharged geysers that also gate in summon monster VII water elementals every few rounds. OUCH! It also adds quench and geyser as medium spells.
The Fate option applies the spirit bonus to Intelligence checks, Intelligence-based skill checks and Will-saves, and. The séance boon nets a +1 to the DC of enchantment and illusion spells, and the influence penalty prevents you from casting beneficial spells on allies, unless you’re included among the targets or area of effect. Taboos include autofailing Will saves unless they directly harm others or result in directly harming others; communicating exclusively in Aboleth, or being forced to execute vanquished enemies. The lesser ability is using the mesmerist’s spell per day table (NOT the spell list!); for each spell level you get, you also choose a psychic spell to add to the medium spell list. The intermediate ability nets you a 15 ft.-reach tentacle with 1d4 base damage, a primary natural attack. You have to default regarding damage type. It can deliver touch spells. The greater ability lets you expend spell slots to make a ranged attack against a target in close range; targets hit take a penalty vs. your mind-affecting effects, with the penalty determined by the spell slot used. As usual, limited uses, accept influence for more uses. The supreme ability nets you a potent dominate monster SP.
The archetype also replaces location channel mirrors trance of three for other destinies, except the character gains the lesser spirit power, and the ability does some surprisingly interesting modifications, and as a big kudos, the fate destiny’s bonus spells become a separate, distinct array, but can’t be cheesed. Well, this is a cool class-hack. I’d particularly consider this one for 1-on-1-games; It’s versatile and interesting.
The pdf also contains two psychic options: The corrupting slime phrenic amplification, which can lace aboleth slime in linked spells (managing to execute some high-complexity rules-operations rather well), and also add Constitution damage to spell effects; and yes, balanced. Kudos! The major amplification, sleeper agency, can add an implanted suggestion (not properly italicized) in those affected by charm effects. This ALSO is forgotten. Wow. This may not sound like that much, but it can be used to super-devious ends. Like it!
The pdf also features 3 spells: Symbol of mental erosion works like a symbol of death (bingo, not in itaclis), save that it imposes a massive debuff versus mind-affecting effects; deep-sea armaments is a low-level spell that makes your weapon count as piercing for purposes of attack rolls and damage under water, but NOT any other way; kudos: The spell does explicitly state that damage type etc. remains unchanged. This is a really handy rules-hole fix. Underwater suffication[sic!] is funny, in that, while the title has a typo, it gets the formatting of spell-references right. This spell suspends the ability to breathe underwater, and the spell also has a chance of dispelling underwater breathing spells.
Joshua Hennington’s humble little pdf surprised me in a positive manner. While there are a couple of options herein that I’d consider to be filler, the pdf’s occult options in particular are interesting and well-crafted; surprisingly, it’s not the class hack that I most liked, but the psychic options – they look simple, but are pretty tough cookies to properly pen. Anyhow, this is a solid little supplement, with a few lame things (the feats are imho superfluous at best), but also some gems – all in all, well worth 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the low and fair price and the well-wrought occult material.
The Genius Guide to MORE Simple Class Templates for Monsters (PFRPG) PDFRogue Genius Games
Our Price: $2.95Add to Cart
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This pdf clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, applying class levels to monsters is often not a valid or smart move n the CR-system, as e.g. slapping a single wizard level on a CR 19 critter will contribute nothing to the build. The first of these genius guides remedied that for a plethora of classes, and this one follows that lead, this time around covering the Occult Adventures classes and the Vigilante. Since these classes have more complex systems, the abilities often work differently than for the class. Spellcasting only allows for the casting of the three highest spell levels it would have access to based on HD, though lower level spells may be spontaneously and optionally added, taking some build-load of the GM. The templates are often based on an ability score, and as such, a global guidelines is that a minimum ability score for an efficient critter should be around CR +9.
Each of the templates features quick rules and rebuild rules, and each of the templates features a sample creature. Kineticist creatures have CR +3 if below 10 HD, +4 CR if it has 10 or more HD, and use Constitution, unsurprisingly, as key ability modifier, and Burn is ignored, with infusions instead using daily limits – which makes sense for playability’s sake. The sample creature is a star here – we get a kineticist plague locust swarm! These sample critters also come with read-aloud text, and full-color artworks by Jacob Blackmon – nice!
The medium template (CR +1; +2 for 6+ HD, +3 for 10+ HD) ignores influence penalties and taboos, instead opting once more for a daily use cap; spellcasting is allocated properly, and the sample creature is the patchwork soul, an awakened flesh golem who can recall being other people – which is a genuinely cool angle! The Occultist creature has the same thresholds that determine CR-increases, and features a spell slot table. Not a fan: Resonant powers are ignored. I get why, seeing how mental focus is gone and focus powers are treated as daily use options, but yeah – the loss of resonant powers is sad. The sample creature here is btw. an occultist-v tooth fairy – aka cryptodontist. Easily one of the most twisted critters I’ve seen below CR 1!
Mesmerist creatures get +2 or +3 CR (with 9 HD being the dividing line), and a handy spells known table; the sample creature here is the baleful reflection, a CR 4 mesmerist soulsliver that may not be tough, but in the hands of a smart GM, can be a rather deadly adversary. Bold stare improvements are tied to HD, and mesmerist tricks are simplified to daily uses. Psychic creatures have their thresholds for CR-increases at 8 and 14 HD, respectively, and flat out uses Intelligence for discipline powers; phrenic pool points are gone, replaced with daily uses where appropriate. The sample creature here would be…a psychic velociraptor! Cool! Bu wait! We actually get more! We also get the cool psychic flumph from the cover! Yep, two builds! Nice!
The spiritualist gets a flat roaming range for the phantom and a small number of spells, with the HD thresholds to determine increased CRs once more being 6 and 10, respectively. The build here would be the gearghost-based “Ghost in the Machine”, which, with its phantom, can potentially wipe experienced parties – the build is pretty darn clever, and, when played correctly, will properly challenge a party. Kudos! (Yes, abbreviated phantom-stats are provided).
The vigilante creature, finally, can have its CR increase by +2 or +3, with 10 HD being the threshold; with slightly less moving parts than the other templates, this one allows for a pretty seamless integration that will make it very hard even for the most experienced of players to discern that the creature is not built via class features, regarding its overall capabilities, of course. The sample creature here, funnily, would be a vigilante unicorn!
This felt familiar. A quick glance at the credits told me why: The Faces of the Tarnished Souk-dreamteam of Matt Banach as author and Justin Sluder as developer once more reunites here, and presents us with genuinely challenging and exciting builds; I’d go so far as to claim that this pdf is worth getting for these sample creatures, even if you don’t have any interest in the tables! The creatures are creative, and the templates do what they’re supposed to – they allow you to quickly add class-specific angle to creatures without drowning you in minutiae. Love it! 5 stars + seal of approval.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This mini-pdf clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content.
One of these pages is devoted to a one-page iteration of the nice full-color artwork, while the other contains the rules-relevant material and background.
Trash Gryphons are CR ½ Tiny magical beasts that actually are a variety of different entities that combine the traits of mammals and birds; the most commonly-known one is raven/raccoon, but pigeon/rat or jay-squirrel hybrids exist as well. An alternate ability that lets them use a skunk musk is provided. The statblock isn’t perfect and lacks e.g. flight maneuverability and has a few minor snafus in the math, which is jarring at low CRs and such a minor stat complexity.
I’m sorry to say, but the trash gryphons by Jacob Blackmon and Margherita Tramontano fall short – I like the concept, but with hiccups in such a simple critter and not much offered beyond the basics, and we’re left with a flawed little pdf. I can’t go higher than 2 stars.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
The first bestiary for Pathfinder 2 clocks in at 362 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 3 pages of editorial/ToC, 2/3 of a page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 352 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested by my patreon supporters.
First of all, regarding organization, it should be noted that the bestiary includes lists of creatures by level, and a list of creatures by type – the inclusion of these is helpful when navigating the book. Creatures traits, ranging from rarity to sizes, are included, and the book contains 3 rituals, which all deal with outsiders – abyssal and infernal pact do pretty much what you’d expect them to, and angelic messenger lets you transport to a celestial plane or the material plane, acting as a messenger. Nice here: The system’s degrees of success and failure now present the chances for narratives hardcoded in here – the angel stranded, the pact gone horribly wrong; these tried and true and oft-employed plot-devices now have a representation within the framework of the rules.
Considering that this bestiary is the first one for PF2, it warrants a couple of additional observations regarding its quality as such; the first bestiary for any given iteration of a fantasy game inheriting the general tropes of Dungeons and Dragons is usually neither something that I usually enjoy reviewing, or that warrants particular mentioning. In many ways, there is simply not that much to discuss, as the bestiary is required for a precise use of the system anyhow. And indeed, this bestiary is the first of these “first bestiaries” in quite a few editions that I actually read in detail, and not simply referenced when its use was required; partially due to my reviewer status, and partially because Pathfinder’s second edition represents a pretty significant change of the dynamics of these books in a few ways.
So, the first thing to bear in mind, is that the first bestiary needs to present a sort of lowest common denominator (and that is not meant in a disparaging manner) for fantasy gaming with the respective game; after all, the monsters in these books make up what you’d consider to be the standard, the pool that all supplements will continue to draw from. You may not be able to assume that everyone has bestiary #4, but chances are that if you’re playing a certain game, you’ll at least have the first one, right? In a way, bestiary #1 for a given system thus has a lot of “mandatory” creatures to be included. You’ll need orcs, ogres, dragons, some of the most iconic demons and devils – you get the idea. And then, still, plenty of people will have their nerdrage, because their favorite critter’s not, or no longer, included.
Heck, I know, for that’s exactly how I felt when I read the 3.0 Monster Manual back in the day. Speaking of which – you can picture my abject boredom and disappointment when I realized that I could have just left the 3.5 version of that book on the shelf and not miss much; in many ways, from a monster-perspective, Pathfinder 1, for me as a person, started becoming distinct and actually relevant when Bestiary 2+ hit shelves, when the creatures started to differentiate in both themes and focus from what we had seen before. This held particularly true after Bestiary 2, but I digress. PF 1’s first bestiary, to me, did not exactly elicit any serious excitement; I got because I was dipping my toes in PF 1, and not because I had a serious desire to get it per se; it felt like another iteration of a book I already owned twice, and while it is to this date my favorite of the three, it also continued a focus that I couldn’t help but bemoan.
I might be an odd one out in that regard, but know why I pored over my 2nd edition monster books, time and again? Why I actually read those in detail, something that, apart from the context of reviewing, I never had the desire to do for PF 1, at least not in the beginning? (That did change later, when builds became more distinct and differentiated.) The thing I was missing? It’s simple. Lore. Granted, we don’t need the same lines explaining how undead have no place in the natural order of things ten times over. More often than not, the information on habitat, ecology, etc. actually proved to be inspiring to me and made up a lot of what I considered to be exciting about reading a monster book. In direct contrast, monster manuals based on d20-systems system-immanently got rid of those components in order to fit in more statblocks – after all, the increase in rules complexity also resulted in an increased amount of space devoted to the respective statistics of the creature. Compare to that how 13th Age’s statblocks got rid of essentially all non-combat utility in favor of lore for another extreme example on the lore-to-rules ratio – in that case, competitive scenarios beyond combat were somewhat scaled down.
The bestiary for Pathfinder’s second edition is, in one way, a step away from that tendency, while still embracing it. Some creatures have multiple paragraphs of lore, while others have a single sentence, and said lore if often Golarion-specific. The layout presents the creatures in a one-column style, with a margin providing information pertaining to the creature – say, mephitis, to name one, have the information that other mephit types exist; angels have a brief note on angelic divinities and locations; it’s not much, granted, but it reintroduces some immediately gameable components that usually were relegated to lore sections back into the meat of the book. Why not more? I get it. Personally, I love getting my detailed discussions of creatures, but there also are plenty of people that want to maximize the amount of rules-relevant material, particularly in such a book. I am pretty positive that nobody is going to explain about the sheer amount of creatures included in this tome. That being said, while this space is *often* used to accommodate the lavish artworks in this tome, it also sometimes results in lost real estate, and I was somewhat puzzled to realize that the Lore skill’s use of Recall Knowledge regarding creatures was not included. Listing sample DCs and subcategories for the creatures in question would have made sense, and filled in some space; in a way, I get why – this’d have made the book look more busy than it already does. But at the same time, the skill-engine of PF2 has this use specifically hard-coded into its bones, so the lack of this aspect did strike me as odd.
Then again, there is more than the excellent artwork to comment upon in a positive manner, and that would, at least to me, be simply how elegant PF2’s statblocks are. While statblocks, including high-level statblocks, can be pretty compact, the new format allows you to add a ton of complex abilities and flavor into the monster statblocks, if you so desire. For rank and file critters, this means we get more statblocks; for more unique creatures, this means you can get complex and captivating critters with lots of special abilities.
Many people, and I confess to being among those, were afraid that PF2 would attempt to beat 5e at its own game, and that has not happened; in many ways, the two systems have gone diametrically-opposed paths, in spite of some superficial similarities, and nowhere is this more readily apparent than in the creature design and statblocks. D&D 5e presents creature stats in a very novice-friendly manner; the statblocks spell out everything in detail – when a creature has the swallow whole feature, we have a whole paragraph explaining how it works for that creature. Spellcasting behaves similarly, paying for the reduction in spell statblock complexity by relegating components of the spell’s rules to the main spell text. The creatures in Pathfinder’s second edition go a different route: Instead of spelling out everything (at the cost of how easily you can parse statblocks quickly), they establish a series of abilities that come up time and again, and then present the crucial components in a tight manner. In Pathfinder’s second edition, you have to know what swallow whole does – but when you do, you can see the glyph for one action, maximum size, the damage, and a “rupture” value that represents the damage you need to do to get out; Engulf and many other abilities work in a similar manner. So yeah, Pathfinder instead frontloads a couple of things you need to know, but makes parsing/quickly running statblocks you haven’t prepared faster.
An example, perhaps, to illustrate the difference – let’s take a look at the good ole’ Purple Worm:
Which of these is better? I honestly can’t say. Both of them have distinct advantages; 5e makes it easier for novices to have all rules spelled out at one place, while Pathfinder’s second edition requires that you know how “swallow whole” works – once you do, however, you become MUCH more efficient at running the creature; you don’t have to look for the mechanically-relevant components in a paragraph of text. I’ve talked to quite a few people, and the opinions are divided pretty much in the middle. Some prefer the detail, because they don’t want to learn the “universal” monster rules; some prefer the streamlining of these, particularly since the creatures in Pathfinder 2 have taken an important lesson from the first edition to heart – there is a much higher propensity towards having unique abilities (which are, obviously, properly spelled out), which renders them feeling less mechanical. Now, as a person, I can parse PF2’s statblocks more efficiently than those of 5e, plus I prefer this style. As a reviewer, I consider both to be two distinct and valid solutions to the same issue. So yeah, as far as I’m concerned, the PF2 statblock can be considered to be a success – statblocks are divided in utility, defense and offense – easy to read and parse.
Another success is one that is perhaps more subtle and something that mainly designers will notice, namely the fact that the statblocks adhere to a consistency between stats, sizes and e.g. spells – take e.g. a look at polymorph spells and the respective creatures. Speaking of creatures and details – one component to be renamed creatures. To explain that: IP and the like have been an issue all through d20’s lifespan, and this new edition takes a lot of critters and renames them according to Paizo IP. Let’s e.g. take the Alghollthu. These are now the catch-all terms for Bulwer-Lytton-esque antediluvian critters like Aboleths and Skum, as well as Veiled Masters; essentially the “Ruins of Azlant”-y critters (still one of my favorite APs). The categorical names makes sense to me as a whole; as for the other creatures, there are a couple of renames that are just a matter of getting used to it, and in several instances, I really like them. Take the Ankhrav. If you’re familiar with Germanic languages, “graben” means “digging”; “Grav” means grave; Ankh- is a pretty well-known prefix for a classic monster, so you can determine that that’s the new Ankheg. Arboreals are obviously tree-people, taking a step away from the ole’ Tolkien-IP. “Dire animals” have now become the proper appellations (cave bear, megalodon), with the obvious exception of dire wolves, which are a real world thing. Whether that makes sense or not for you depends, but the careful reader will also notice that the elemental creatures have been changed – we get 4 more normal elementals, and one odd man out per element. This includes xorns, invisible stalkers, salamander – those are now listed among the elementals. I confess to that throwing me in for a loop for a second.
So, one big advantage I noticed here, would be that many boss monsters have obviously been designed to focus on attacks on single targets or spread out attacks to multiple targets; the new action economy means that the boss monsters no longer require the set ups for full attacks to be efficient. GMs won’t have to engage in as much trickery as in PF 1 to make bosses, particularly stand-alone boss monsters, work. Speaking of bosses and something I LOVED seeing: The book takes an often more roleplaying-focused approach to some classics: Succubi, for example, now take damage from being rejected (cue in all those demons being insulted and becoming REALLY aggressive…), and this roleplaying angle can be combat-relevant, when e.g. including such a rejection or reference to one in the Demoralize attempt. I defy, I deny thee! Heck yeah. In many ways, this focuses more on the roleplaying, and uses it to supplement the combat; rules helping with roleplaying. That’s a good tendency, as far as I’m concerned. Mechanically, I love the succubus here; the artwork is (apart from 5e’s version), the least sexy take on the demon of lust I’ve seen in a while (srsly, I see more risqué outfits whenever I go out), so that may be a plus or minus for you. No chainmail bikinis herein; no cheesecake, no beefcake – so if you’ve been hoping for a more edgy game, if you considered the big games too sanitized, that hasn’t changed.
What *has* changed is often what kind of creatures were chosen: The highest-CR critter? It’s not a pitiful version of the Tarrasque (like in 3.0, 3.5 and PF1), but Treerazer, who goes Troll II on you – he turns you partially into a plant by just being near, and he’ll do more damage/horrid wilt you – OUCH. A really cool boss build of a unique critter, who gets an awesome build, a sentient, supportive artifact, and sidebar notes on cults. Awesome. I wish more creatures had been afforded this deluxe treatment – in particular, the take on the wendigo, another one of my favorites herein, would have deserved as much. The build is complex, genuinely frightening, and oh boy, it’ll kill you off…it’s a level 17 creature that sees heat, has the signature curse properly here, the ride the wind angle…this fellow REALLY deserved the lore angle. The amazing statblock only has one line of flavor, when it obviously would have been a perfect candidate for two-page boss-treatment. (Whoever made this one did a great job!) On a plus-side, there are quite a few options where this edition does some things I *personally* enjoy – werebeasts, for example, now have different abilities regarding their respective bloodlines. Wererats have different abilities than werewolves. Finer differentiation is nice to see.
There are some things that have kinda irked the OCD guy in me: Take, for example, the attacks called “jaws” – these attacks deal piercing damage, but there is no system beyond this damage type: Sometimes, these have reach, or range, sometimes they are agile (or deadly, or with another weapon property) – there is no nomenclature that differentiates jaw attacks from e.g. fang attacks. Fang attacks also cause piercing damage, and can also have weapon properties. Personally, I’d have prefer both referring to a unique type of melee attack with certain properties, instead of being essentially interchangeable. But that may just be me. This is not necessarily a downside for the vast majority of people. More relevant for most people: There are no rules for making your own critters, or for how class levels and abilities may be added to critters. I kinda hope that the engine here will end up being a bit more complex than the one for Starfinder; as much as I love SF’s engine, it also can be easy for math-savvy players to reverse-engineer.
The conclusion of my review can be found here.
Fantastic Ramblings - Recall Knowledge: Dragons (PF2E) PDFEvil Robot Games
Our Price: $1.99Add to Cart
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
The first of the Recall Knowledge-pdfs clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page introduction/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
So, I’m a fan of monster lore. I like my critters deadly, and I like it when players are rewarded not for their outgame knowledge, but for actually doing their legwork. As such, PF2’s Recall knowledge use of the Lore skill, with its sub-categories, is something I genuinely loved seeing, and which I felt to be curiously absent from the Bestiary. Anyhow, this pdf is the first in the series to tackle the notion of PCs actually pausing to think about their foes.
The Lore subcategories in this supplement will be Lore (Dragon) and Lore (Arcana), with the Arcana DC generally being 5 higher than the more specialized one pertaining dragons; DCs by level are provided, ranging from level-1 to level 20, and DC adjustments are recapped as well. There is a brief table summing up creature identification skills (Occultism for e.g. aberrations and spirits). As standard in PF 2, critical successes will net you more (and better) information, while critical failures net you no or incorrect information; interesting here is, that a failure nets you one piece of true information, and one that is false or misleading.
A kind of Recall Knowledge statblock is provided: It lists the creature level, its category (here: dragon, metallic or dragon, chromatic), the type trait, DCs and best known ability – this is relevant for the critical success. One of these is provided for young, adult and ancient dragons. The base assumption is, that young and adult dragon knowledge is common, whereas that pertaining to ancient ones is uncommon – this makes sense, considering that most people will know about nearby dragons; furthermore, as they age, dragons tend to raid less, etc. – in short, the rules support the established in-game lore. I can get behind that.
Another useful feature of this book? You don’t have to paraphrase abilities – the pdf has you covered. There are 6 pieces of true knowledge, and 6 erroneous or incorrect pieces of information. These generally tend to seem plausible, and hey, might even be true in your game? Or, well, not, as per the standard. These tend to be plausible. “Bathing in dragon blood can make your skin invulnerable.” “Dragons can swallow their enemies whole.” Okay, the first was simple, but what about the second one? True in PF2 or not? See, that’s what I meant by plausible.
Each sub-category of dragon gets their own specialized table of such entries – these tend to range from 4 entries to 8 entries for the true knowledge, and 3 entries for incorrect information. Considering that most GMs will have a tougher time coming up with plausible lies on the get-go than paraphrasing information in not rules language speech, I think the focus here is a bit unfortunate – having more plausible false information would have been more useful, as far as I’m concerned. Your mileage may vary there, but yeah – that’s one of my biggest niggles here. I also think that each of the dragon types could at least have used 6 entries for each false and true pieces of information. I am personally rather fond of the inclusion of copper dragon jokes: “Why can no one see the minotaur rogue? He’s invisibull.” XD Having one such table for each dragon type, and the full 6 entries, would have elevated the pdf from being a neat one, to being a great one.
Paul Fields’ first book on creature lore, both truthful and false, is a promising start for a new series. It has identified a oversight/hole in PF2 that can be filled with handy dressing-books such as this one. This is a helpful GM aid to have, and as a whole, is well-researched. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like it could have used more false pieces of believable information regarding the dragons, and the full complement of truths for each of them. Considering the low price-point, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for this one, and look forward to tackling the one dealing with fiends!
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This supplement clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
Okay, so, the pdf begins with cursed item rules: Spellcraft 15 + item’s CL after identify et al. to note an item’s base properties, with DC 25 + item’s level denoting the cursed properties. Discarding cursed items is not automatic after remove curse, as the pdf specifies once more, but the pdf also specifies that this spell does not de-curse an item…obvious, but still handy. Intentionally and accidentally crafting cursed items is covered, and the pdf touches upon selling cursed items and where to buy them. The pdf, after this handy recap, presents optional cursed item rules, starting with automatic identification, carefully hidden curses and more complex curse removal scenarios. Degrading magic and particularly resilient cursed items are also touched upon. Nice array of options here.
Okay, so, what kind of curses do we get? We begin with the amulet of chatty fists, which makes the wearer’s hands sentient, obnoxious and chatty…and item whose curse can range from hilarious and kinda welcome to plain funny or gratingly obnoxious, focusing on the roleplaying aspect – something I genuinely liked seeing. Boastful sniper goggles are clearly worn by plenty of anime characters, for the wearer executing sneak attacks is compelled to boost about them. There are figurines of wondrous power that are berserk when activated, and figurines that work properly, but have a chance to turn the user into a figurine for the duration.
On the more mechanical note, the amulet of cumbersome flesh makes sense, as it does act like an amulet of natural armor, but also greatly increases armor check penalty. Boots of endless levitation make you levitate up to 2000 feet…and there are boots that levitate you upside down as well. What about a bracelet of friends that is missing an “r”, thus conjuring fiendish doppelgangers, while delaying the arrival of the target? Or what about a resilient ore that instead increases fire damage and makes the wearer vulnerable to fire? On the plus side, the latter item actually helps against the cold… The ring of delayed shielding stores an ammunition in an extradimensional place, delaying being hit by a blast from it. Clever: The damage is converted to force, preventing abuse. This has tactical value, narrative potential – love it!
The backhand of glory had me laugh out loud, as it essentially pimp-slaps the user (properly codified re damage type etc., mind you) for using some abilities. The robe of useless items also had me seriously chuckle. What about the bag of rabid animals, which does exactly what you’d expect it to? Or the cloak that makes you do a victory dance when you successfully save against an effect (no save)? The ring of the spell store infests the casting of the wearer in-game with microtransactions, demanding to be paid. Another favorite of mine: The rope of motivational climbing, which sets itself ablaze like a fuse, requiring quick climbing. Also explodes at the top. Genius! The shoes of the hurried firewalker similarly made me laugh – they do pretty much what you’d expect them to.
There are also items that are just nasty – like a cursed campfire bead that actually only generates an illusion of fire. Know that dream, where you fall to your death, only to awaken right before hitting the ground? The cape of the waking nightmare twists the sequence, teleporting you up when waking up or attempting to use its effects. Ouch. Or the cloak that baleful polymorphs you into a Fine spider? Some goth ladies I know obviously suffer from the corset of wiry witchcraft, which inexplicably snags on nearby things, making movement more difficult. What about the cursed vest that shrivels your eyes when attempting to use the deadeye deed? Sandals that may cause you to bond with trees akin to dryads? There is a belt that transforms head and torso (and only those) into that of a fish – hope that some water’s around (and this one can make for a really clever investigation angle…). What about horseshoes that transform creatures into tikbalang-like creatures?
The pdf also provides a variety of magical goggles that could dazzle you, cause near-sightedness, and what about a helm that makes you comprehend only one language. Helms and boots of sloppy teleportation are pretty much classics form the get-go, and what about an unreliable handy haversack? But there are also items that can arguably be rather potent when handled properly: Provided you can withstand the effects, the cursed horn of befouled air, a horn of fog variant that produces cloudkill centered on the user, can be rather cool. Rings of both-eye blinking are also clever – they do teleport the wearer, already…but they also force their eyes shut for a minute! Rods of maximum security send targets to a hellish prison, and the rod of wander actually may be better than the item it mimics, as it gets you away in a reliable manner…but sans control of where…
On the twisted side, what about a robe that steals your face, making you featureless (and very creepy) and blind/deaf/incapable of smelling unless wearing the robe? What about boots that let you cling to undersides of horizontal surfaces, but, alas, which get stuck? Super sticky finger gloves, or a chime that opens a portal to a detrimental room? Need an item that will result in a ton of raunchy heckling at the table? The wand of dribbling fireballs has the fireball dribble out, detonating in the user’s space. XD
The pdf does not stop there, though – beyond all these specific items, we also have a selection of 21 common curses and drawback qualities that can reduce item prices. These range from the standards to baleful advertisement curses! EEEEEWWWWW. Did I mention that I really like this book??
Jeff Gomez and Charles Kulick, with contributions by Kate Baker, Nik Geier, Kiel Howell, Matt Oatman, Andrew Ready and Maria Smolina, deliver a grand pdf. In fact, this is easily my favorite Zenith Games-book from all the ones I’ve covered so far. The cursed items herein are consistently cool: They are mechanically relevant without being bland; they often are clever, witty, and even funny. You know, in the way that’ll have your players laugh and say “Well played!” while their characters suffer. It’s not just fn and games, though – there also are plenty of different options that feature themes you’d associate with fairy tales, and there are a lot of cursed items herein that your players might actually want to keep around for some trickery. In short, this book is a resounding success with an excellent bang to buck ratio. Usually, the lack of bookmarks would strip the pdf of my highest accolades, but this one is simply too fun, too captivating, to penalize. 5 stars + seal of approval, highly recommended!
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This mega-adventure/anthology clocks in at 91 pages of content if you disregard editorial, ToC, etc., and one of the pages is devoted to a brief hack for Night’s Black Agents – and as an aside, my favorite GUMSHOE game so far is pretty much Esoterrorists with some Night’s Black Agents-rules spliced in.
This review is based on the perfect bound softcover version of the book, which sports the name on the spine, making it easy to find in your RPG-library.
Anyhow, this mega-adventure, structurally, has an introductory scene, and then allows the agents and GM to choose from 4 scenarios that may be run in any order; after these have been completed, the adventure has a furious final module. In many ways, this is thus akin to Night’s Black Agents’ excellent “The Zalozhniy Quartet”, with one crucial difference – there is less interwoven content. In said adventure, the sequence in which the respective modules are tackled would influence the overall plot and how they behave with regards to each other; this could seriously increase the replay value. Worldbreaker does not sport connections between the scenarios, which makes preparing the module easier, but also decreases the replay value of the entirety and makes the respective parts feel less connected and more disparate. Worldbreaker also sports only one possible finale, instead of multiple ones, but said finale is developed in a more nuanced manner and feels, as a consequence, less like a cut-scene/final fight.
Which of the two approaches you prefer remains ultimately up to you, but personally, I’d have loved to see the myriad connections and versatile endings; this would have bloated the page count by, according to my rough estimates, at least 20 pages, though, so not sure that’d have been feasible. There is one further aspect on a formal level that I was less than enthused by, and that would be the continuation of the annoying tendency of GUMSHOE modules not sporting proper maps. There is not a single map included, in spite of the fact that more than one scene would have really benefited from having at least some sort of map. Without an expert GM, this mega-adventure can feel somewhat indistinct regarding dimensions etc., and I strongly advise getting some building plans and maps from the public domain when running this. On the plus-side, the book features quite a bunch of handouts, though these are not collected in an appendix – you’ll have to copy/print them, and cut them out. An appendix would have been more comfortable there.
Okay, the formal aspects out of the way, this is an Esoterrorists module, and as such, it is a HORROR adventure. If you’re easily offended and consider horror to be problematic, if you want sanitized games…why play a horror module in the first place? This module includes gore, twisted stuff, death, psychological horror, etc. – you know, horrific stuff? Its setting is the Ocean Game version of the real world that acts as a backdrop for both Esoterrorists and Fear Itself, and the focus is on investigation. This also is not a module for Esoterrorist (or at least, investigation) novices – it can be tough, and the introductory scene has a component that works much better if it is properly contextualized by previous adventures. Worldbreaker works best as a campaign capstone, as it is a) deadly, and b) has potentially a huge impact on agents and OV. I assume familiarity with the terms of Esoterrorists in this review.
Okay, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the game starts in San Francisco, where something twisted has happened, and I don’t mean in the fun way. The OV meets up at the luggage carousel in Sand Francisco ( a notion kinda making this more real to me – when I first visited the US, it was San Francisco where I landed), and from there, the investigators are off to the Basement. What’s that, you ask? It’s a discreet sex club catering to an international crowd. As an aside: The club’s footage features one of the most compassionate and understanding ways in which BDSM is depicted in a piece of mainstream media – usually, it’s depicted in a rather twisted manner, when in real life, a relaxed and often playful atmosphere is cultivated. As a lifelong practitioner, that was nice to see. Oh, and the BDSM folks are not the bad guys for once. I know, right? Instead, they are, alas, the victims – victims of an example of a textbook American family. Wholesome, nice, kids and granny included. The Powells entered the club, brutally slaughtered everyone, and then committed ritualistic suicide. Investigating the scene also sees the handler, Mr. Verity in OV-terms, snap – the lady (also called Mr. Verity) attempts to kill herself – hopefully, the agents can intervene.
Anyhow, analysis of the footage and investigation into the family’s background, leads to some twisted realizations – slug-like ODEs, so-called Symps, seemed to have taken over the family, only to then infiltrate different persons attending the BDSM-club – and from there, the threads of the plot’s narrative spread out through the 4 main chapters/episodes. And yes, the family’s home and all the small investigative scenes yield further clues – in spite of the finale being more linear than “The Zalozhniy Quartet”, the massive investigation has a surprising amount of failsafes, second chances and similar tricks, by which the pacing may be maintained.
Each of the episodes has a somewhat different gameplay and focuses on a different type of horror: The first of the scenarios puts the investigators on the trail of an international lobbyist, hunting the guy via a series of escalating incidents from new Jersey to Leicester and Italy, with the theme and chapter-header being “Coulrophobia” – we have a murder-clown adventure, where twisted clown ODEs cause fatal traffic accidents – yes, plural, for they have built a kind of crèche wherein new ones spawn. With their own, strange rules to uncover, dangerous incidents and the requirement to understand their twisted, obsessive MO, this is a great, classic horror investigation, one that, like the others, benefits immensely from the agents doing their legwork properly – this is a deadly scenario, but one that is very much beatable by smart agents.
The second Symp has an agenda that is, in a way, less flashy, and which may be the toughest investigation of the scenarios within – the chapter is called “Geoslasher”, and the notion is pretty cool: The (for copyright reasons) renamed Google-company of the world’s streetview etc. Pictures hae been showing killings – and it’ll take some serious sleuthing to uncover everything. This one is also when experienced OV agents will realize that something bad is going on: Organ grinder…as a “oh yeah, and then there’s that ODE”-encounter. Just kinda happens right there. Things are becoming rather twisted. Oh, and obviously, discerning the game of the Symp, how the streetview/satellite imaging corresponds with the murders…that’s a pretty tough cookie. I love the slow burn here, with paranoia, estrangement and technology-anxiety being some of the leitmotifs featured within.
The third episode made me recall “The Seventh Circle”, but works imho better: This one is plain ole’ survival horror done well – set in the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves of Belize, its theme is one of a reality TV show diving into ancient Mayan sites – and the dark that haunts these places. Against a backdrop of ancient legends and cults, this is all about navigating a labyrinthine place of darkness, of light and survival – it is the one scenario that is closest to the structure of many horror games and movies. It also sports a rather rudimentary ad nigh useless (and ugly) map of the labyrinthine caverns, and feels easily like the least exciting of the scenarios of the campaign. It plays better than it reads, but considering what the Popol Vuh and associated legends offer, it feels like it seriously undercuts the potential of its own premise; in many ways, it feels most like it could have benefited from a few extra pages.
The fourth and final regular episode is one that I’d indeed suggest to run as the last one – “Heart of Outer Darkness” once more takes us to Morovia (I have to visit this place at least once!) and begins like an international spy story, dealing primarily with weapons’ shipments – and the trail leads to Africa, first to Ebola-ridden Liberia and then to Nigeria – it turns out that the ODEs have come upon the grand plan to not only supply nuclear material stolen from Chernobyl to the dread Boko Haram, no, they also want to weaponized frickin’ Ebola. In the hands of arguably one of the nastiest extremist movements ever. The stakes are high here, and indeed, the finale of this one is easily one of the best in any GUMSHOE scenario – not only can the agents prevent a nuke being used, the trail leads them to the master of the Boko Haram, who turns out to be a mystery man, a nigh demigod ODE, mainly interested in playing the eponymous Ocean Game, a psycho-magical fugue in which contestants are driven insane. The twisted being not only escalated its involvement in the states of mankind, it also pronounces doom for all of the world and seeks to sow dissent and paranoia – and its set-up is masterful. Indeed, and that should be emphasized: This is an exceedingly well-structured horror-campaign that GETS horror. The book is never cheap or excessive or dumb with its concepts.
The finale obviously took a cue from the whole Fyre Festival debacle; seeded throughout the campaign, a cornucopia of clues can help the agents determine entry vectors to a take on said festival, on an island that shouldn’t be there. No map is provided. Boo. An island, where, coincidentally, a passenger flight vanished, and where esoterrorists from all over the world engage in a twisted, massive debauchery-style festival interspersed with human sacrifice of the passengers…to the largest ODE ever to attempt to enter the world, a being so vast, it might shatter the membrane! This scene perfectly encapsulates the notion of how the membrane is thinned – it is grotesque in a truly twisted manner, this strange juxtaposition of the mundane and celebratory, and the cataclysmic madness. The primary antagonist doesn’t put up a fight – but he doesn’t have to. The entity is here. And any attempt to combat it results in instant death for the agent. No check. Heck yes. Having the chutzpah to properly go all out? Yeah! The endgame, even for triumphant agents, thus is very grim – the standard proposed solutions have, at best, one agent as a lone survivor of the insanity here – but when the fate of the world hangs in the balance, can the OV agents do what needs to be done?
Robin D. Laws’ Esoterrorists is my favorite contemporary horror game, and frankly, I believe that it’s not as popular as it should be primarily because its modules have been somewhat problematic. Worldbreaker breaks that tendency, thankfully. This is HORROR. It’s not cheesy, it’s not redundant, it is genuinely clever, modern horror that works exceedingly well regarding pacing, variety of themes, and plot structure. This is, in short, the Esoterrorist module that the game always deserved, but never got. I adore this, I love it to bits, and while I have some niggles here and there, I can genuinely recommend this campaign to anyone with a soft spot for modern horror campaigns. I have barely touched upon the complexities of each chapter, and there is a lot to love and explore, so many clues to put together, so many variables, that I indeed consider it to be an excellent investigative horror scenario. With better cartography and a few more pages, this could have become my all-time favorite horror mega-adventure, but even as is, this warrants a unanimous recommendation. Even if you disliked all the other Esoterrorist-scenarios (heck, I hated a lot of them), check this one out. It’s genuinely awesome. 5 stars + seal of approval.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This super-sized Occult Skill Guide clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This was moved up in my reviewing queue at my patreon supporter’s request, and because Halloween is approaching, and because its themes are relevant for Christmas (and all other holidays celebrated that time of the year…) as well…and finally, because it’s something I wanted in my Starfinder game – so, do these rules work, and how does the book work?
Okay, we believe with something that Starfinder threw out with the bath water, in a manner of speaking – size modifier rules. While I get the decision behind getting rid of that aspect of Pathfinder’s rules (which famously has two such modifiers), the result further adds to the sometimes a bit artificial feel that Starfinder critters can have. As written, the NPC creation rules simply do not account for different sizes, and though we expect a hippopotamus to be stronger than, say, a coyote, this is not necessarily true in the context of Starfinder’s monster/NPC-creation rules.
As such, the pdf begins with a couple of base rules, and it should be noted that, for the purpose of all further material herein, Small and Medium are treated as the SAME size category. The reasoning is obvious – to prevent disadvantages for Small player races. If you are MUCH smaller (4 size categories) than your opponent, you’ll have an easier time avoiding effects. If an effect from such a source has a partial effect on a successful saving throw, you instead avoid it entirely – essentially an evasion that applies to all saves. Conversely, if you are 4 or more size categories taller than your opponent, and are targeted by an effect that has partial effects on a successful saving throw, you instead take the partial effect on a failed save. What on a successful save? That depends on the context, I guess, but overall, this simple chassis represents an immediate improvement as far as I’m concerned. Why? Think about planes circling King Kong, Godzilla atomic breath-ing at teeny-tiny figures…this lets you play a more cinematic game, one where size matters.
Bulk is covered as well – you take into account the size of its intended user, with x8 per size category above yours, and sensible scaling for items of smaller sizes – essentially, using a space titan’s blaster pistol will be somewhat challenging; a survival knife for a Huge creature would weigh 8 bulk, as the progression is light-1-8. Smaller items follow the same calculation, just with 1/8 being the factor. And in case you’re wondering: Examples illustrate the rounding process etc. – The author’s background in teaching is readily apparent, as the material is easy to comprehend.
Next up are combat maneuvers. Do you consider it stupid that a tiny figure can suplex Galactus? Well, attempting combat maneuvers versus targets that are 3+ size categories larger fail automatically. Additionally, sunder is modified based on the size of the target. REALLY cool: With harrying fire, you can make allies count as larger! This adds teamwork and a tactical dimension to the fights. Now, ginormous creatures can obviously provide cover – this is determined by the elegant cover value mechanic: 1 + the number of size categories the creature is smaller than you, minus the number of size categories the source of the effect is. A handy table lists the cover values, just fyi.
Difficult terrain may also be ignored by creatures of sufficient size; enemies that are four or more size categories larger than you may not be flanked. Creatures with a space of less than1 foot can’t take guarded steps, as those are linked to space. Size modifiers are dynamic in this engine, and are equal to the difference in size between yourself and the creature/object you act against. If the target is larger than you, you apply the size modifier as a penalty to attack rolls, if the target is smaller, it is applied as a bonus. This might seem counterintuitive at first glance, but consider that Starfinder’s attack roll represents hitting the target in a way that actually, you know, causes damage. And this might well be harder for ginormous critters.
When you make a combat maneuver that is not dirty trick or the frickin’ amazing scale maneuver (Advanced Skill Guide, oh boy should that one have been core…): Other maneuvers, if the target is larger, apply the size modifier as a penalty, as a bonus if the target is smaller. When you deal damage to an opponent, the size modifier applies as a reduction if the target is at least one size category larger than you, as a bonus if the target is smaller. This is not multiplied on a critical hit. The size modifier also applies to saving throw DCs. Regarding Perception, larger critters are obviously easier to spot, but Strength-related checks obviously benefit from being larger. Other rolls are also covered, and the pdf provides rules for swallowing targets. But wait…isn’t there already a swallow whole universal creature rule? Yes, and the rules presented herein are essentially the lite version of that one – and while funny, it’s pretty darn risky to swallow targets if your biology isn’t made for it. Still, the inclusion here? Cool!
Now, remember, while these rules all are intended to work in conjunction with each other, they are presented in a manner that allows you to cherry-pick components to suit the degree of simulation you prefer in your game. Just want attacks, saving throws and DCs to matter? Include just those. Want magic and AoE attacks to be the grand leveler of sizes? You can do that. The modular nature of the rules presented here is really appreciated.
Of course, there is a simple and practical issue at the very foundation of size modification, and that would be the grid. And oh BOY is that one useful. Handy tables and precise explanations allow you to swiftly deduce the size of effects on e.g. a Tiny grid, when your PCs have been shrunk down, or on a colossal one, when they are having a martial battle with a kaiju.
Speaking of which, there is something that fans of Everybody Games will be familiar with – the introduction of Supercolossal creatures, including the super beneficent “massive” extraordinary ability – oh, and guess what? Concise rules for fighting such titans with your starships/using them in starship combat! On the other end of the spectrum, we have ultrafine creatures, who receive the miniscule extraordinary ability. It should be noted that these may be used with or without the previous chapter’s rules – kudos for championing modularity.
After these, we dive into sizechanging rules, which make use of both the concisely-defined macrosize and microsize descriptors; the pdf then walks you through the process of adjusting areas of effect, damage and reach in a manner that is both comprehensible and makes sense regarding its sequence. Speed and gear are taken into account as well, and interactions of sizechange effects are covered as well – new effects essentially supersede old ones, and when/how they stack is defined as well. The polymorph effects and their interaction with sizechanging is defined as well. This section is FRICKIN GOLD. Pym? Ant man? Il était une fois…la Vie (more commonly known in the English-speaking world as “Once upon a time…life” – all those glorious options, now available. I am literally salivating when thinking about the narrative options.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of “Honey, I shrunk the kids”, you’ll be happy to hear that the pdf includes the shrink weapon special property, and almost a full page of concisely-defined weapons – from small arms shrink rays to shrink-miniguns and precision shrink rifles or grenades, we have some seriously cool options, including the level 4 size-adjusting weapon fusion. 4 mks of insectisuit armors (ranging from levels 10 to 19) can be found as well and help you with sizechanging. Hybrid items, like the biomass downsizer and the miniaturization interface system (MIS) can downsize targets or allow you to take items along. Of course, magic is featured as well – baleful embiggen and baleful shrink are presented for mystics and technomancers, at spell levels 2 – 6, with the higher iterations unlocking progressively more extreme size category modifications – and yes, mass versions are included as well. With the right feat, you can also make the biomass taken act as a buff to allies, and if you want to affect targets sans their equipment, there’s a feat for that as well. Non baleful iterations may be found as well, and at 3rd spell level, you can modify the size of bodyparts, for grotesquely-elongated arms or locomotive limbs…or heads. And yes, these have individual penalties, depending on the caster’s choice. What about level 1-6 macrosize missile, which allows you to throw small objects and make them quickly grow to deadly proportions? Wanna evade attacks as a reaction? Shrinking dodge. And with underdog’s day and its mass iteration, you can even the playing field against those colossi.
This is not where the pdf stops, either – instead, we receive occult materials, with 2 corruptions (all required rules included) first; the first of these that made me draw my crimson bow and arrow. If you got that reference, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear: Yep, there is a Colossus corruption that obviously is inspired by Attack on Titan. (*Puts the Epica track on full blast*) Anyhow, it’s not just the corruption. Know those cool grappling hook harnesses from Attack on Titan? Guess what this book has? Yep. Item level 3. This corruption alone will warrant the asking price for some of you. Of course, there also a diminishment corruption, including an artifact-cannon! F***YEAH!
The book also presents new rituals, once again including all required rules to run them: At level 5, fantastic voyage does pretty much what you’d expect it to: People placed in pods and their consciousness is uploaded into nanomachine effigies of the respective individuals – and since shrinking objects is difficult, we have all the means provided to order the respective items…or, aforementioned artifact cannon would do the trick…but then you’d have to deal with InsaneCorp…worth the risk? Oh, and before you ask – yes, you can go full-blown Microcosm (who remembers that Psygnosis classic?) and have a nanoship as well! Microclysm draws unrepentantly from the traditions of sword and planet and pulp, with crystal ball-enhanced (yes, rules provided!) shrinking of whole cities being possible. And yes, you can shrink planets! AWESOME. Can you see the angle of the planet-collector? The desperate strategy to save a doomed world thus? I can. Love it. Can you see the damage that rough handling of a planet could cause, the post-apocalyptic consequences? I can. I love this to bits! Writhing Flesh in Father’s Form, a level 6 ritual, is once more on the potentially rather twisted side of things –the target of this ritual transforms into the shape of the creature that “donated” an organ, limb, etc. – from Metal Gear Solid to narratives exploring total identify fluidity (or dissolution!), this one has a huge amount of applications as well. It should be noted that each ritual comes with legends and sample encounters/story seeds to help contextualize their impact and application.
Speaking of which: In case all this awesomeness caused some serious choice paralysis because you just had too many great ideas, fret not, for the final chapter provides advice for microsized and macrosized adventures, with types and story structures noted, as well as examples provided. Scifi/science-fantasy-Gulliver, baby!
Alexander Augunas’ shrinking rules…ah, shucks, who am I kidding???
GET THIS NOW.
I am serious. Not only is this book highly modular in its rules, it presents elegant and easily implemented rules for size-changing; from Kaiju-battles to adventures within an organism and infiltration of organic growths, this book unlocks whole GENRES of awesome stories for you – and it doesn’t stop there. The corruptions and rituals add further icing on a cake so awesome, I don’t even know where to start.
Do you want your big monsters to matter more? Get this.
This humble little booklet is a masterpiece, it enhances SFRPG in several crucial ways; its presentation is precise, clear and well-structured. It is a prime example of how great rules can make the game better in pretty much every way. With Zen-like elegance, Alexander Augunas delivers a masterpiece here, a book worth getting, even if you’re only interested in components. Chances are, that upon reading this, that’ll change and you’ll beam from ear to ear like I am right now. This is one of the most important books currently out there for Starfinder. It belongs in the library of every self-respecting GM, and thus gets 5 stars, my seal of approval, is a candidate for my best of-list of 2019, and this also gets the EZG-Essentials tag as a book that is al but required for SFRPG. If you get one Occult Skill Guide, get this. Now. If you even remotely like amazing, precise rules that truly inspire you to explore new vistas, you won’t regret it.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This expansion for the Talented Druid clocks in at a massive 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page blank, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf was moved up in my reviewing-queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
Okay, here things become interesting, as we get new stuff – where the core pdf provides the talented druid framework, this one presents new options, including guidelines (right in the introduction) that allows for their use in context with a regular druid class. The edges this time around take no prisoners, and tie in with pretty widespread and beloved concepts – it begins in a comparatively subdued manner, with astrology, which first allows for the consultation of stars to glean knowledge from them, and then, later, provides deeper insight, granting knowledge akin to mighty divinations. This edge also acts as a prerequisite for plenty of talents pertaining moons, planets, etc., allowing you to depict a natural scholar of the supralunar realms.
Then, things start to become VERY interesting indeed – the ley line edge for spellcasting druids, which, for once, does not consider itself with tapping into ley lines per se, but instead focuses on moving them in a way, enhancing areas as more and more ley lines are bundled. This can result in a variety of options that range from making to area seem haunted to mists and the like, finally culminating in the option to make the area behave as a dead magic zone. As a minor complaint: As written, the movement of ley lines is tied to gaining access to a new level of spellcasting, with no minor tweaks included. This means that the ability is more useful for NPCs and campaigns where the druid doesn’t move too much – an understandable balancing tweak, but also one that I feel could have used a minor means to temporarily bypass. That being said, I do love that this provides rules to create druidic places of power. (As an aside, I’m living not too far from a real life druidic grove from ancient times, and considering the atmosphere of that place…yeah, I can see it.) Speaking of groves – there is an edge to erect a monument, which, once more, ties into the ley line edge as a sort of anchor for ley lines – and destroying these can have a variety of rather painful effects. In a way, this is another story option that primarily comes into play in narrative contexts, as well as for NPCs, so some sort of direct benefit would have been nice...for example, in the context of kingdom building, these probably should have repercussions and effects.
The pdf also presents lycanthropy in its “natural” form as an option; so not as a curse, but as a shapechanging trick that is not infectious. Big plus here: The pdf actually differentiates between different types of lycanthropy regarding abilities granted – wereshark druids have different tricks than werebats. Good call! Being reincarnated is also included, and then there’d be the words of creation. These are 9 words spoken at the dawn of time, and a druid with this edge gains Linguistics as a class skill. The edge may be taken multiple times, with each time providing access to a word of creation, provided minimum level prerequisites for having more than one are being met. These words duplicate spell effects, with 10 + spell level + Wisdom modifier denoting the DC, and class level as CL. These behave as SPs that have a compulsory verbal component, and may be dismissed as a free action. Rules to identify them via Spellcraft are provided, and only one word may be in effect at a given time, provided no talents have been learned to bypass said limit. The respective words each denote their action to activate, and have an interesting thing in common, namely that new abilities are not unlocked based on level progression, but on specialization – the more words of creation you know, the more abilities you’ll be able to execute per word, and the better they become.
The words are the 4 traditional elements, fate, space, time, life, death. To give you an example: Air nets the druid Auran as a bonus language, and lets them summon winds in a 20-ft. per druid level-radius of up to strong force as a swift action; higher numbers of words of creation unlock gust of wind as an at-will SP, and later, that one may be redirected and maintained as a swift action – take that, overpowered archery-builds… Quicker casting, longer range and greater windforce may be found as well…though the 9-words version uses untyped damage. And yes, I’d complain about that, but considering that whirlwind etc. also use untyped damage, I won’t. Still, I wished the pdf had codified the damage incurred by windstorms in a concise manner. I was always irked by PF1 not typing damage incurred from storms etc. properly. But that may be me. Death lets the druid cause a creature below 0 hit points and stable to resume dying, behaving as bleed as a SP. Considering that bleed is a standard action to cast (which is also the default of the SP), I’d have considered it wise to decrease that to a free or immediate action. Druids with more words get at-will effects somewhat akin to death knell and higher hit point thresholds, slowly building up to power word: kill-esque levels. Nice. At this point, you get the idea – in a way, this language of creation-engine is certainly better than Paizo’s ill-fated Words of Power-engine, and as far as a suite of class abilities is concerned, provides a surprisingly nice sub-engine. I should also mention that, no, life’s fast healing options may not be effectively cheesed. Though there is a way, so let me indulge in a bit of truly grotesque theory crafting:
The base word nets an aura that heals targets, but only when they are at negative hit points. The regular word applications have a hard cap on how often they may affect a target in a given timeframe, but this aura does not. So, theoretically, provided you can move hit points around freely, you could use a bunch of half-dead kittens and the aura, with hit point transfer, for unlimited healing. Slow unlimited healing that is contingent upon keeping all critters close to death’s door, and on the ability to move hit points from multiple targets to others. Yeah, know what? For once, I’ll shut my trap, and tuck my box of kittens away. As an aside: If you’re interested in the Space word, which focuses on the manipulation of sizes, I STRONGLY urge you to get the fantastic Microsized Adventures by Everybody Games, and potentially Microsized Templates, for not only more options, but also a sped-up playing experience. Similarly, ´(de-)aging becomes more comfortable to use with the Childhood Adventures book, but that as an aside.
Anyways, so the edges provide a rather distinct array of options here, how do the talents fare? Well, here, the words of creation come fully into their own, expand from options to essentially a whole mode to play a druid of its own. Want an armor of energy, with effects contingent on word of creation used? You can have that. Want to awaken animals and plants? There’s a talent for that. Want to be a good druid, always accompanied by blue skies (cue in Frankenfurter’s classic song)? You can have that. (As an aside – I love this one. It’s just so…nice. Like an ability that, you know, a HERO would take…) And yes, if you’re an edgelord, you can choose Dark Skies instead. It’s probably what folks would expect me to gravitate towards…but personally? Blue Skies.
Speaking of curses. You don’t like non-infectious lycanthropy? There’s a talent here to change that and spread the curse of the beast. Oh, and yes, hybrid shapes may be enhanced further. Wanna be diurnal or nocturnal? Talents included for that. (And yes, they can’t both be taken.) If you want somewhat elemental features and abilities, you may wish t consult the elemental aegis ability tree, and there is a HUGE (as in: Spanning multiple pages) talent that may be taken multiple times, allowing you to take on more fey-like properties. Establishing territories to guard over, coaxing mental into shape, the ability to enter hibernation…and what about being such a brilliant herbalist that you can duplicate potent condition heals? At higher levels, we have swarm master-themed tricks and options to entomb the unfortunate, weaponry granted by the words of creation…you get the idea. But how does it retain its balance? Well, there always is the hard cap on words of creation in effect, and even though the base engine seemingly implies otherwise at once point, this cap remains pretty fixed. On the plus-side, there are combination effects and synergies galore – know air and death? Congrats, you can now generate a nauseating miasma! If you like combo-playstyles and organic character evolution, you’ll most assuredly enjoy this material. And yes, there is the good ole’ “save vs. wall of text” summary of talents by general theme to help prevent choice paralysis.
Stephen Rowe’s expansion for the talented druid really makes it shine; the word of creation engine is a mighty tool that can drastically shift how you play a druid – any druid, really. Add to that the other themes, including the massive fey-themed array and the astrology-angle, and we arrive at a supplement that ranks as easily one of the best druid expansions released for PFRPG’s first edition. I can unanimously recommend this little gem to fans of the druid. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This massive supplement clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, ½ a page blank, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 52.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf was moved up in my reviewing-queue at the request of my patreon supporters. Also: Samhain’s approaching. :)
To briefly recap, since it’s been a while: Rogue Genius Games’ talented class reworks are an interesting and handy option to have for many groups; the idea is to redesign a given base-class and codify all those alternative abilities and a archetype features in a unified frame; in some ways, one could argue that talented classes behave more like PF2 or SFRPG options than classic classes. The series’ ambition is to codify all of these abilities and put them in one of two ability-categories – the first, and more “valuable” would be the edge, which usually sports a pretty strong direction for the implementation of the class. The second is analogue to what we know from most classes – the eponymous talent, which now includes all those class abilities that you previously simply got, even though you didn’t necessarily want them.
The result, obviously, would be an extremely flexible and highly customizable take on the respective base class, which can allow for class concepts that wouldn’t otherwise be possible: IN my current game, I, for example, have a talented witch (a sentient voodoo doll), who uses Charisma and spontaneous spellcasting, and who specializes in delivering spells etc. via his hair, as well as on gray necromancy. The system immanent downside to this flexibility is readily apparent: The respective player needs a higher degree of system mastery…but then again, PF1 has been around for quite some time, so I kinda expect you to be capable of handling this component. The respective class components note their origins for reference in brackets, which can be rather helpful, but I’ll get back to that later.
Okay, that out of the way, the talented druid has d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves.: Druid’s language options include Sylvan, and Druidic is gained as a bonus language. The class is proficient with club, dagger, dart, quarterstaff, scimitar, scythe, sickle, shortspear, sling, spear, as well as with all natural attacks gained through shapechanging, as well as with light and medium armor and shields (except tower shields). The druid may not wear metal armor or use metal shields, and doing so causes the class to lose spells, SPs and SUs granted by the class for 24 hours.
The talented druid begins play with 4 edges, plus an additional at 3rd level and every other level thereafter; additionally, 4th level nets an edge. These include e.g. alien form, spellcasting (yes, you have to explicitly choose that!), animal companion (ditto), the feral shifter’s animal focus, bite or claw attacks (which include values for Small and Large druids as well), familiar, favored terrain, inspiration, the ability to use metal – you get the idea. Abilities like greater wild shape or chimera form are locked behind appropriate minimum levels, and if you want, you can have grab with your bite attack from level 1 onwards – you just, obviously, have to have the bite edge. Getting Psychic Sensitivity and psychic spellcasting is possible as well, provided you have spellcasting in the first place. Orisons must be chosen explicitly, and rage (the non-unchained variant) is a possibility. Higher level options include quicker summons, though here, I’d have appreciated the rules explicitly stating how the summoned creatures behave when called (“summoning sickness”, to burrow a term from Magic: The Gathering – yes or no?). I am not 100% happy with all choices made here – with just the claws edge, you can have rend as well, as soon as first level, which can be a brutal. Spontaneous domain casting, studied target and traps are included here alongside more skills or hit points. Wild shape can be taken as soon as 4th level.
Now, I mentioned domains, and it should be noted that these don’t just behave as the talented cleric’s take on the concept, instead having, like animal companions, their own appendix devoted to them, including massive lists of terrains, sources, etc. Now, it should be mentioned that the druid domain options tend to be somewhat less potent than those of the cleric, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned, in light of the considerable power of the druid class even before becoming talented and allowing for cherry-picking. That being said, if your game tends to gravitate towards the upper power-echelons, fret not, for there indeed is a sidebar that helps you use both in conjunction with each other. Alternate domain options have been included, and for the sake of facility, we also get a spell-list with spells by level first, and then by school second – the list has been compiled from the sources up to and including Occult Adventures.
The druid also receives, as touched upon before, a resource called “talents”, which is used to further customize the class – these are the usual class features that have a slightly less pronounced impact on the overall direction of how the class plays, and in quite a few places, they have been taken and adapted in a salient manner – to take the first example “A Thousand Faces”, which generally makes for a somewhat underwhelming higher-level option, this one can be taken as soon as 6th level. At 2nd level, you can elect to become amphibious, or take the arctic druid’s Arctic Native feature. Shifting and tweaking of elements, favored enemies, communion with the spirits, upgrading companions to be undead, limited inspire courage. It should be noted that poison immunity has been tweaked, as now, only the augmented form ability (taken from the Naga Aspirant) has access to it as part of the mainstream class array; this, and the serpent domain, which gains poison immunity at 6th level, are the sole means to get this particular immunity – which seems like a sensible decision to me. It should be noted that, e.g. the mountain druid’s immunity to petrification may be found.
In case all of these options threaten to cause choice paralysis, fret not, for the series’ “Save vs. Wall of Text”-sidebars provide categories that help you navigate all of these options. Want to know what’ll net you resistances/defensive options? Take a look at the section. Want to know which talents net terrain-related improvements? Check out that list. Nice. A similar list has been provided for the edge-section as well, just fyi.
So, all cool? Well, there are a few things I didn’t like as much. 14th level is empty, for example – you don’t get anything cool, and just an additional spell of a spell level you already have access to, which *may* be a glitch, as several edges and talents reference 14th level as the minimum level. 16th level suffers from the same issue, but does not have the same prerequisite references, and that level, plenty of scaling class options improve, so it’s less of an issue there. 18th level is the final dead level. I am not sure if the class table is simply missing something, or if this is intentional, but as a whole, I dislike dead levels big time. A new level should always provide something cool.
I do not begrudge Stephen Rowe his work on this series of books. As much as I enjoy the talented series, working on these class supplements is a TON of work, and not work that’s pleasant or interesting, but serious WORK. Capital letters. As such, it is a joy to see the fruits of this labor pay off, and in many ways, I consider the druid in its talented iteration to be a success. At the same time, there are quite a few of the combinations herein, where I’d have added in a minimum level – rend, for example, is imho not something 1st level-builds or 1-level dips should be able to attain this easily. My second gripe with the class, is one of an aesthetic nature – dead levels. Those should imho just not be there.
Apart from these two complaints, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this talented class, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
The Genius Guide to the Talented Otter Dragon (PFRPG) PDFRogue Genius Games
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An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This pdf clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreon supporters.
Okay, first things first: I am pretty positive that this creature was created using the Talented Bestiary, a book I do not own. As such, I can’t comment on how well it implements the guidelines in said tome.
That out of the way, we begin with an introduction that contextualizes the otter dragon in the fantasy world, before diving into the abilities them have. Breath weapon-wise, we have a cloud of electricity that also affects the targets with touch of gracelessness, using the dragon’S HD as CL, and getting the resistance/immunity interaction right – kudos! Somewhat odd: The ability to add electricity damage to bite attacks is called “Burn” – which is already a word that denotes two thoroughly different abilities in PF1. This may be due to adhering to the bestiary’s guidelines, though, so it gets a pass. (It’s also a cosmetic nitpick to boot, one that doesn’t affect rules-integrity.) At adult age or later, we have change shape, and otter dragons of young adult age or older get an aura that can suppress fear and rage effects. We have dragon senses, fast healing at later age categories, and they cast spells as oracles, but choose them from the druid’s list, get SPs, SR, uncanny dodge and water stride – they are actually more nimble in the water.
The lion’s share of the pdf is then devoted to a total of 12 otter dragon statblocks, one for every age category, from the CR 2 wyrmling to the CR 17 great wyrm. After each statblock, we have a name and one paragraph describing a sample otter dragon of the respective age category, with sizes increasing from Tiny to Large. The integrity of the statblocks tends to be better than I expected them to be; remember that, while “druid spells known” for the latter age categories may look puzzling at first, the spell list is referenced here, not the actual mode of spellcasting. I considered it to be rather refreshing to see plenty of instances herein (all that I reverse-engineered, in fact), where size modifiers, special size modifiers, CMB and CMD, initiative – you know, all those pesky values? Well, they’ve been calculated in a precise and correct manner.
…any nitpicks? Öhm…well….let’s see…does it count that the “0” in the dragon’s spells known is in italics and shouldn’t be? …Yeah, I know. Nobody cares, and frankly, I don’t care either. This is a cool collection of dragons.
Jeff Lee’s otter dragons are cool. I really like them, their stats are precise, and the pdf provides a significant amount of otter dragon bang for your buck. No complaints, my final verdict will be 5 stars.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This Occult Skill Guide installment clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
All right, as you could glean from the title, we have another great ritual to employ in SFRPG here, one that uses the rock-solid ritual-engine featured in the ritual-centric installments of this series previously. It should be noted that this is a stand-alone pdf – this means that all rules for the ritual base-engine have been included within, and that justifications of why rituals work and similar advice to implement them in your game also features within. (With the success of Grimmerspace, it should also be noted that implementation of the ritual engine seems like a perfect fit for that setting, but that just as an aside.)
Anyhow, I’ve already talked in length about the potent ritual engine in previous reviews of the series, so if you need guidance there, please do take a look at my reviews of the other ritual files – I’d rather take an in-depth look at the new material than repeat myself here. Okay, so first thing you’ll notice, is that the ritual doesn’t exist in a vacuum: Instead, it features two new technological items, the first of which is something I couldn’t believe wasn’t part of the core book – the handheld biometric scanner, which is a level 2 item. It requires the target to wear a hospital gown or the like, and allows you to make Medicine or Life Science checks to determine whether the target suffers from afflictions (and if so, which ones), and also determine whether the target suffers from corruptions. This takes a minute, so plenty of time to start thinking about means to fool the scan. A big plus here would be the smart way in which the DC to discern the nature of an affliction or corruption scales – only the presence of something odd has a fixed DC. I like that, as it does not hamper with narrative angles, while still providing information and progress. Kudos for this smart design decision.
The second item is actually really inexpensive for its level 4 item-level, but this is explained by its massive unwieldiness – a stasis unit, with 200 bulk, isn’t something you’ll be carrying around. It can hold a single creature of size Large or Smaller in suspended animation, and the process of awakening or being placed in stasis takes 1 hour. For the target, one day passes per 10 standard years. While they prevent mental atrophy, muscular atrophy is an issue – oh, and guess what? There actually is a properly statted “disease” that requires a victim to engage in a therapy regimen to be allowed to save. I like this – it once more puts the story in charge and makes the rules seamlessly support narrative angles. It should also be noted that the mere presence of stasis-units allows you to potentially really emphasize the vastness of space. If you e.g. love the good old classic “The Forever War” and always considered things like drift engines and the like to be detrimental for your conception of how a scifi/space opera game should behave, well, there you go – one item and all the stories about the ginormous nature of this vast space you could craft from it.
The ritual (categorized as belonging to the mageologic ritual school) featured within this installment would be the level 3 Restore the Broken Body, which requires 3 hours to execute – for the components, we need a biometric scanner, a stasis unit and a tier 3 computer; as a reagent, we require scrap computer components, nourishment agar, a break enchantment, a remove affliction and a 4th-level mystic cure spell chip. To qualify for being restored, the target creature must either be alive, or have died no more than 6 hours prior to the ritual’s start – this rather strict time-line obviously has quite a lot of potential for emergent play, as PCs hustle to try to get their fallen comrade back to their ship/base in time. The backlash for this ritual is pretty lenient – it only sickens and exhausts the targets; the ceremony itself is also comparably simple: The target is first stripped of equipment except biotech and personal augmentations that are essential for survival. The target is then thoroughly sterilized via Medicine or Life Science. After that, a pint of blood is drained from the body and provided to the scanner hooked up to the computer. The target is then placed in the chamber holding the nourishment agar, which, as a whole, requires three checks, including one for Computers/Engineering. After that, the computer scans the restoration chamber, determines nature and extent of damage sustained, and uses an overlay of an extrapolated genetic blueprint and biometric reconstruction drones (BRDs – as a German, that made me lol; around here, that stands for “Bundesrepublik Deutschland”) perfectly reconstruct the target.
Their capabilities properly codify their available medicinal level and Medicine bonus, and the ritual entails a brilliantly codified if/then system for additional effects – as noted before, the ritual can restore the dead back to life, heal poisons and diseases or break curses etc.; it can also heal ability drain and restore missing systems/body parts – the latter actually provides a concise sequence of how the ritual prioritizes them. Really cool! Finally, there also is the means to reduce corruption point total, allowing for interaction with the amazing corruption engine, also featured in this series. This, however, is NOT what made me smile most about this book – it’s impressive, sure – but guess what? The failure effect this time around is frickin’ brilliant. Each ritualist, on a failure, has a 50% chance of being subjected to flesh to stone, and additionally, the BRDs (*chuckles*) have a 50% malfunction chance that will cause the target Hit Point damage and actually worsen diseases or poisons, and they cause ability drain and ruin systems in sequence instead. My one complaint here would be that it would have been smart to codify the BRDs as either tangible or nanites – leaving that up to the GM is smart, but could result in a brief bout of confusion. Under the pretense that they are nanite-like, we have a pretty cool scenario, wherein PCs wake up from e.g. a TPK on board of a ship, surrounded by petrified folks, only to start suffering from mysterious ailments – finding out what happens makes for a great angle tinted with body horror.
The ritual is supplemented with a brief legend and two sample encounter-implementations. As before, we receive copious advice regarding the creation of our own rituals, which is amazing.
Alexander Augunas is on a spree of knockout, awesome supplements with this series. I absolutely adore the Occult Skill Guides and what they represent. Not only do they emphasize the magical aspects of SFRPG, they do so in a manner that genuinely feels like magic that could exist in a space opera/scifi setting. Whether benevolent or horrific, this ritual allows for whole new angles, and allows a group to continue playing after suffering a TPK, which is always a plus. (So yeah, obviously a Mass Effect 2 plot-twist is very much in the cards with this!) All in all, I consider this and its vast potential to be well worth the low and fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. (Seriously, if you even remotely like the idea of a more magical setting, or if you are as excited for Grimmerspace as I am, do yourself a favor and buy the whole product line now. It’s worth every cent.)
Star Log.EM-072: Deisauryu, God of Monsters (SFRPG) PDFRogue Genius Games
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An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This Star Log.EM 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!
So, first of all, if you haven’t seen this one before, the first page recaps the Supercolossal size category, including the potent “Massive (Ex)” ability, before we take a look at Godzill…äh, I totally mean “Deisauryu.” (As an aside, from a linguistic standpoint, I love how clever this is “Dei” + “saur(us)” + Japanese-sounding ending – most people won’t notice it consciously, but it made me smile!)
Anyhow, this pdf contains not one, but two massive CR 25 statblocks – Godz…äh, I mean: “Deisauryu” and…Mechadeisauryu! :D And before you ask – they are two totally different builds, not just a lazy, slapped on template! Both use the combatant array as a baseline.
Deisauryu sports devastating bite + swallow whole, claws + bleed and tail + knockdown attacks, as well as an E & F- damage-causing ranged atomic bolt, with damage types properly noted: Minor nitpick: The bite and claw attacks (but not the tail) lack the +1 granted by the otherwise properly applied magical beast graft. The fellow has fast healing 100 (!!), immunity to ability score damage and drain, death effects, disease, energy drain, fear and fire – with acid, cold and sonic sporting sizable resistances and SR complementing an impressive defensive array. Never fight the fellow in fire – he can designate an energy type every round, and if a resistance or immunity prevents damage, that is healed instead. Oh, and Resolve and a reaction can be used to spontaneously change that. The aforementioned atomic bolts have a vast range, and, obviously, we have a breath weapon as well – this, in contrast to the bolts, not only causes damage, but also some short-lived radiation effects. No action reroll versus save or sucks and a 1/year second life complement a truly fearsome build. Did I mention that he can use bolts or breath weapon as an AoO? Yeah. My advice: RUN. Or board your starship. Oh. Wait. No. Scratch that. Why? There are tier 20 stats for the fellow included as well – even in your starship, he can mess you up! Minor complaint: No mechadeisauryu starship iteration is provided.
Speaking of whom: Where deisauryu focuses on melee as the better attack, the mecha-version is better at ranged combat, and a construct, though one that seems to have elected not to apply the construct graft’s adjustments. We have bleed inducing claws and bites in melee, as well as a defensive array, which, while impressive, is not as potent as that of deisauryu – with laser cannons, missile barrages or plasma bombardment (grenade-like attack) ranged attack options (did I mention the shock harpoon?), he hopefully won’t have to withstand as much damage. Oh, and with multiattack missile barrages, he does have even more damage capabilities. The lack of said feature for creatures of this size makes sense , but oddly, the penalties to atk don’t seem to have been applied to the mechadeisauryu. The missiles can have paralyzing and sleep-inducing payloads as well, and the creature can regain Resolve when resistances or immunities prevent damage – ouch! EAC, KAC and save-names are not bolded properly in this statblock. We also have a pretty cool flavortext included in the pdf.
Alexander Augunas’ Godzilla/Deisauryu builds are things of beauty; while I did nitpick a bit here and there, I just can’t help myself – this tugs at my heart’s strings in just the right manner, and I genuinely ended up loving both builds herein. As such, my final verdict as a person, for me, will round up from 4.5 stars, which I also suggest you do if you love Godzilla as much as I do. If you have no soft spot for the King of Monsters, you should probably round down, which my official reviewer’s score will also have to do…but then again, perhaps this pdf, alongside the sheer terror on your player’s faces could change that…
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the class-centric supplements by Legendary Games clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this supplement with a summary of design decisions made when crafting the Legendary Barbarian presented herein, which is handy to have indeed. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at this class redesign. The legendary barbarian has d12 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armor and all shields – yes, this includes heavy armor and explicitly also tower shields. However, fast movement only applies when wearing armor less than heavy and not carrying a heavy load. The class, obviously, has full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. A small thing. But one I enjoyed, was to see Endurance gained as a first level bonus feat. It makes sense in the context of pretty much every barbarian in fantasy/sword & sorcery-literature ever, and doesn’t break the game – good call. Second level yields uncanny dodge, 5th level improved uncanny dodge, and 7th level yields DR 1/- which improves by 1 every 3 levels thereafter. Third level nets danger sense, which scales in the classic manner, i.e. +1 for every 3 levels thereafter. 14th level yields indomitable will, which is slightly more precise than the default verbiage of the ability, explicitly pointing out that it stacks – it’s a small touch and technically not required due to the ability’s untyped bonus, but it’s still a very much appreciated component.
So, what’s new? How do you play a barbarian? Your first action in combat will be “I enter rage” – without fault, in 99.99% of instances. This class completely rewires rage and changes this, and indeed, the whole angle of how rage operates. A legendary barbarian has 4 + Constitution modifier rounds of rage per day, with each additional class level attained increasing this by +1.Rage is still renewed after 8 hours of rest, takes a free action to enter, and temporary ability score boosts do not influence the rage-allotment available. While in rage, the legendary barbarian gains an untyped +4 bonus to Will-saves against fear, -2 to AC and receives 2 temporary hit points per Hit Die, with 11th and 20th level increasing this to 3 and 4 per Hit Die, respectively. While in a rage, the legendary barbarian may not use Charisma-, Dexterity- or Intelligence-based skills (except Fly, Intimidate, Ride and Acrobatics) or any ability requiring patience or concentration. A rage is ended as a free action, and fatigues the legendary barbarian for 1 minute afterwards, and while fatigued or exhausted, the class may not enter a new rage. Spells, feats and effects that would grant rounds of rage only provide half as much, minimum 1. – I assume that to mean rounding down, as per the default. Odd: The paragraph stating this has been presented twice – once as part of the ability, and right after that, in a kind of boxed text.
Here’s the thing: Rage is now tied to so-called rage forms – once is chosen at 1st level, and another one is unlocked at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. When entering rage, the legendary barbarian enters one of these rage forms, and rage forms may not be changed while in rage. Rage forms improve in power at 11th and 20th level, and a total of 13 are provided. Here,w e can find the option to grow claws (properly codified both regarding type and damage caused – kudos!), and the claws account for if the barbarian already has them. Later, we get a bite attack and a gore attack. Battle meditation nets a bonus to atk and AC, bestial rage allows for shapechanging. Not a fan: This form unlocks unassisted flight at 30 ft. and average maneuverability sans the usual landing clause common for low-level flight/jump options. At first, only Small and Medium animals are available, with later levels unlocking more size categories.
Close quarters rage is interesting, in that it nets +3 to atk and damage, but only with ranged attacks executed against targets within the first range increment. It also increases critical multiplier of such attacks, which is something I generally am weary of, but the caveat that explicitly prevents stacking of such effects reigns that in. Closing Wounds nets fast healing, destructive rage boosts melee and thrown weapon damage and sunder attempts. Dueling rage lets the barbarian choose a target to challenge: Against this target, the penalty to AC does not apply, and the barbarian gets a bonus to atk and damage. Elemental rage laces elemental energy into attacks and net a short-range damaging aura. Enlarging rage does what it says on the tin, and another rage form nets omni energy resistance and boosts to Fort- and Ref-saves. Straight bonuses, bonuses to melee and Intimidate also exist.
A bit of an issue – aforementioned challenging rage? It’s worse in every conceivable way than reckless rage – reckless rage nets you +3 to melee atk, damage, thrown weapon damage and Will-saves. Dueling rage just nets you +3 to atk and damage (including ranged weapons) and mitigates the -2 penalty versus one target, and you are dumped out of rage if the target is killed. (“Oh no, cleric – keep my challenge foe currently bleeding out alive, otherwise I’ll drop out of rage!!” – yeah, makes no sense.) Unless you’re playing a VERY atypical barbarian, reckless rage will be the more boring, but also superior option. Internal balancing could have been tighter here. Vicious rage is also somewhat problematic, in that it is a concept I generally like – a +3 to atk, +2d6 damage, but at the cost of taking 1d6 yourself – think of Guts from Berserk in the black armor. I can generally get behind that, but the damage output at level 1 is brutal; the damage type inflicted should also probably not be untyped here, and instead mirror the damage type inflicted by the weapon wielded. As written, this is problematic.
I generally like rage forms, even though their internal balancing isn’t perfect – but they do present a bit of an issue. With the reduced rage-gain and the front-loaded budget of rounds of rage, dipping into the legendary barbarian is a VERY enticing option. By spreading the rounds of rage a bit thinner over the lower levels, and by taking care regarding several of the rage forms, this could have been much smoother. As written, I’d strongly suggest limiting the options to dip into this class.
At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the barbarian gains a new rage power. Totem rage powers may now be freely selected, which, while potentially making sense, also can be a bit problematic – it depends on your game’s aesthetics and the skill employed by your players. Lists of existing and unchained rage powers for use with the class are provided here, and the pdf does include its own list of rage powers exclusive for the legendary barbarian. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 21 such regular rage powers have been included. These include moving over water as per water walk (italics missing), dealing scaling ability score damage to a mental ability score (proper minimum level cap). There also is a rage power that extends your rage’s duration after spending rounds of rage on it when you score a critical hit, with the durations stacking with themselves and being contingent on critical multipliers. Cool: This may not be cheesed! Huge kudos for making this work properly! Counter bull rush, being immune to lycanthropy in animal/bestial rage form, rerolling miss chances, etc.
One of the most interesting and visceral chains here builds on a rebuild of unchained rage’s crippling blow, allowing for the severing of limbs, codifying them by type – and yes, the rules are actually fair. And yes, at the end of the chain, you can rip off heads. Ending grapples/swallow wholes, ghost hunting – several cool options here, and as noted before, rebuilds for both chained and unchained rage powers have been provided.
6 new totem trees are provided – arcane, bestial, blood, shadow, sky and void, and 7 single mighty totems are included as well; these latter ones become available at 14th level and include 50% chances to negate critical hits and precision damage, negative energy damage for those nearby, etc. The new totems, for example, allow for light level control, quicker run/charge, blood-related effects, buffs accompanying entering a rage – you get the idea.
Okay, this component of the rage mechanics out of the way, it should be noted that greater rage also nets immunity to fear, tireless rage prevents temporary hit points cycling and mighty rage, as noted, yields the benefits of the rage form’s capstone benefit. Level 20 also lets the barbarian spend 1 round of rage when scoring a critical hit to make the target save or die.
Now, here is something I very much liked seeing – the class comes with a lot of alternate class features: 3 alternate proficiency arrays (including one that nets unarmed tricks like Catch Off Guard and Throw Anything), Endurance replacements, fast movement replacements, options to get rid of uncanny dodge and danger sense and indomitable will and DR-replacements. These generally do make sense regarding their internal powerlevels. I like these customization options very much.
The pdf also features 9 different archetypes for the class. Gunpowder savages are basically the gunslinger-crossover, locked into close-quarters rage form, with Gunsmith replacing Endurance, better gun-butt bashing, etc. Incredible bulk is about enlarging and using Wield Halfling, a part of a mini-feat-chain herein that lets you clobber targets with their friends. Love it. Mutagenic rager instead is sickened/nauseated by rage and gets AC and physical ability score boosts. Pint-sized ragers get a custom rage form versus larger targets, while righteous ragers get a rage variant that works versus evil targets, ignoring all DR of such targets as soon as 1st level. WTF. Savages are the ranger-tweak with 6 + Int skills and an animal companion instead of rage forms. Slavering nightmares are about using fear/demoralize (including the chance to cause damaging nightmares via crits); steppe warriors get a mount and builds on ferocious rage. Vengeful bruisers are a kind of monk-crossover. The latter two only have d10 HD, just fyi.
The pdf also introduces barbarian brands – basically, a barbarian’s version of monk vows or paladin oaths. The barbarian may have multiple ones, and 6 are provided – these generally are cool. Several, have a pretty easy clause to break – which is why they sport a Redemption-line that allows you to regain it by fulfilling the stipulated conditions – and no, atonement is not required. I like these very much, and wish there’d have been more. As written, they provide more rage rounds, and that’s it; not even close to what you could do with them mechanically. Beyond the already mentioned feats to beat targets to death with their flailing friends, we have a couple of feats for an Extra Rage Form, an Extra Rage variant, and one that lets you transfer effects of feats that require a specific weapon to improvised weapons.
4 magic items and two weapon properties are included: lesser returning, at +1000 GP makes a weapon return if you reduce the target to 0 HP or below. At +2, greater smashing weapons have bonus damage versus objects and emits sonic bursts when destroying them. The totemic club nets an aligned totem’s lesser rage power while raging. Sadistic pauldrons are armor spikes that cause bleed damage, and that enhance damage output in rage. The helm of echoing screams boosts Intimidate at the cost of Diplomacy. Gloves of reckless throwing enhance thrown attacks, but render the items broken after being thrown. This can be abused potentially if you can get your hands on hard to destroy enemy items. The pdf closes with 5 sample builds and a CR 5 sample NPC, Gorund Windwalker.
Jeff Gomez and Jason Nelson have addressed several issues with the default barbarian class, but I’m not 100% sure that the new iteration is that much better, to be frank. I generally like the notion of rage forms, and from Endurance to getting rid of that god-forsaken anachronistic alignment restriction, there are plenty of things I like. I am not that keen on the free totem mixing and matching and probably would have made that an alternate class feature. The main catch of this version of the barbarian is, that it doesn’t drown in rage rounds – which is a good idea in general. Resource management is a good thing. Here, the implementation is very front-loaded, though – the legendary barbarian is very dippable, more so than the regular barbarian.
At the same time, the class offers no incentive whatsoever for NOT going into rage, which is pretty much the thing that could have fixed the class without reducing rage rounds available. A solarian-like engine, two modes – something like that. It makes sense when you think about it – Kull’s stoicism, Conan’s cunning, Solomon Kane’s ridiculous stubbornness…barbarians don’t just excel necessarily while in rage. Making a single pool of resources pay for rage and abilities available only while NOT in rage would have also added a whole new level to build strategies. Why am I harping on the decision to reduce rage rounds available? I agree with the sentiment behind the design fully – but not with the implementation, as there are plenty of genuinely exciting and rewarding options out there that consume rounds of rage, and thus render the implementation of said options in conjunction with the legendary barbarian kinda awkward or even impossible. Unlike the vanilla magus’ arcane pool, the barbarian’s rage actually has a lot going for it, and losing out there is…well, a pity, one that severely limits the rebuild’s appeal in a global context without offering enough to make up for it.
In a way, this class design feels like it changes things; not necessarily for the better (unless you discount aspects that are often houseruled away), and not for the worse – it’s different, and for everything the class does better than the regular barbarian, it also has a small tidbit like unassisted flight too early, like some options not aligning in power level, that blemish it slightly.
This is a good class rebuild, but it’s no revelation; it’s neither a Legendary Magus, nor a Legendary Cavalier or Gunslinger, nor one of the awesome and modular Rogue or Fighter rebuilds. The alternate class features presented herein were my favorite aspect within, as the archetypes tend to gravitate to the obvious engine-tweaks that we all expect by now. All in all, I felt that this was the weakest class-rebuild by Legendary Games that I’ve read so far. It’s not bad by any stretch of the word, but I fail to see sufficient improvement or enough cool stuff to incentivize me to implement it. Particularly when the barbarian classes that exist aren’t that sucky or one-dimensional AND have a vast array of options that this fellow misses out on. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down.