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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This installment of the Classes of the Lost Spheres-series clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, and 5 pages of SRD, though it should be noted that a part of one statblock can be found on the first SRD-page. This leaves us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The zodiac class gets, chassis-wise, d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with light and medium armor and shields, except tower shields. They get ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves, and their essence improves in a linear fashion over the levels, starting with 1 essence at first level, and increasing that to 20 at 20th level.

The zodiac is an akashic class, using veilweaving to form unique magical benefits. At this time, I have presented how akasha works in detail not only once, but twice: Once in Dreamscarred Press’ “Akashic Mysteries” and once in Lost Spheres Publishing’s “Akashic Trinity.” Both of these present really cool classes, and akasha, as a subsystem for magic, is super-interesting to me. I assume familiarity with the system in this review. It should be noted that this is a stand-alone supplement – you do not require Akashic Mysteries or Akashic Trinity to make use of the class: The basic rules of akasha, how veilweaving, shaped veils etc. work is explained within.

The zodiac handles the akashic engine in a couple of unique ways, but more on that later. At 1st level, the zodiac gains the ability to tap into the so-called constellations. Constellations can be manifested as either forms of equipment (in which case they occupy the appropriate slots), or as champions, but not as both at a given time; a given constellation may only be manifested once at any given time by a zodiac. Champions called forth by the zodiac are always the same and retain feats, skills etc., and they are capable of understanding the zodiac. In case of the zodiac being unable to command them, they use their best judgment. Most champions gain levels and improve as animal companions, with zodiac levels being substituted for druid levels to determine progression. The manifestation of a constellation is a standard action that imposes essence burn, depending on the precise manifestation chosen, on the zodiac. While the manifestation is ongoing, this essence burn may not be recovered. If the zodiac loses consciousness, manifestations are automatically dismissed, but otherwise, they have no set duration. Reducing a manifestation’s hit points to 0 does dismiss it, and if it is then called upon once more, it manifests with only 1 hit point and all conditions previously in place and not yet elapsed, if any - unless 24 hours have passed, in which case, the manifestation is fully restored. Manifestations may be healed or repaired as usual. Manifestations also act as essence receptacle, with unique benefits for having essence invested in them.

A total of 12 such constellations are provided, though there is a cosmetic snafu among the bookmarks, which erroneously puts 7 of them under the “champions”-header. (The other 5 also have champions, so I figure that this stems from a previous version.) Each of the constellations has an element associated with it, and constellations of an element opposed to one currently in place by the constellation in effect cost more essence to manifest. Each constellation comes with a bit of flavor text in all-caps introducing it, and then proceeds to list element in question and manifestations granted in their own lines. Below these, the respective manifestations are listed, with essence costs in brackets. As a minor complaint, the formatting of the subheaders of the respective manifestations sports two cosmetic glitches on page 11: Once, champion is underlined instead of bolded, and once it’s not bolded. These are cosmetic, though. Each of the manifestations of a given constellation furthermore has an essence-invested line, which allows, as noted before, for further modification. It should also be noted that the essence cost required for a given manifestation acts as a kind of limiting factor for the options granted by the zodiac: The costs to manifest a champion, for example, span the gamut from 4 to a whopping 12, which imposes some strict limitations on the potent abilities granted. The other manifestations, i.e. armor, equipment and weaponry, are significantly less costly.

To give you a couple of examples: The archer constellation can, for 5 essence, manifest a hunter’s bond-using elven ranger with archery style that also has a scaling magical bow or crossbow; for essence invested, CMD versus disarm and trip as well as base movement speed increases. The champion granted by the bull constellation would be a war bull animal companion with a starting Intelligence of 6, who, unsurprisingly, receives boosts to CMB and CMD pertaining bull rush and overrun attempts. Sometimes, you get to choose: Fish, for example, lets you choose between dolphin and shark, and e.g. the sea goat’s champion would be a Capricorn that improves at zodiac level 4 and every level thereafter. Twin nets a scaling rogue – you get the idea. Now, if that sounds like a lot of work for players and/or GM, depending on who usually builds cohorts, let it be known that the pdf does note that only prepared companions should be options that can be called forth. The different essence values and use of a couple of already pretty much done companions also speed up the process. Finally, the discrepancy regarding essence cost and thus, minimum levels required, also means that this task is, thankfully, spread over the progression and makes handling this aspect comparatively quick and painless, considering what it does.

As far as equipment is concerned, one example would be a wooden mask that allows for wild empathy use as though class levels equaled druid levels, and also yields speak with animals as a constant effect. Essence invested in this example would yield bonuses to Handle Animal and wild empathy checks. Manifesting the ram’s equipment nets a properly (type and damage type! YEAH!) codified primary natural gore attack, courtesy of the ram helm (Small and Large zodiac damage values included as well!) that scales, with essence invested enhancing charge attacks – fitting, right? Interesting would be the item granted by the scales: It’s a rod, which allows the wielder to channel the forces of balance: When the wielder is hit, the rod gains healing power (with a cap), and when healed, the wielder can choose to forego healing and charge the rod with damage. Damage and healing, as well as the complex action economy situation here are properly codified, and, in an impressive feat of design prowess, these rules also prevent any form of cheesing I could think of regarding the stored healing etc. Once essence is invested, damage healed/dealt by using the rod is increased by +2 per point of essence invested.

Let’s take a brief overview of what the different armor manifestations, if any, can do, shall we? Here, we get scaling armors and weapons, with e.g. hide armor granted by Lion, and Crab providing one the wearer is proficient with. The archer can yield a ranged weapon (no firearms, and composite bow Strength ratings are taken into account), while the druid nets clubs. It should be noted that essence-investment is taken into account and used to differentiate between the constellations. For convenience’s sake, let us list the respective options by element, shall we?

Air: Armors 0; Champions 2 (Druid, Twin); Equipment 3 (Druid, Scales, Twin); Weapons 2 (Druid, Scales).

Earth: Armors 0; Champions 3 (Bull, Sea Goat, Scorpion); Equipment 3 (Bull, Sea Goat, Scorpion); Weapons 1 (Scorpion)

Fire: Armors 1 (Lion); Champions 3 (Archer, Lion, Ram); Equipment 1 (Ram); Weapons 2 (Archer, Lion).

Water: Armors 1 (Crab); Champions 3 (Crab, Fish, Water Bearer); Equipment 2 (Fish, Water Bearer); Weapons 0.

From this, you’ll note a few distinct oddities – not every element gets an armor or a weapon, and water end up one manifestation short of the others – however, it should be noted that water gets the strongest champion manifestation, so that may have been intended. It also should be noted that this tends to be no real issue, considering that the zodiac gets automatic access to ALL of these manifestations and constellations. This HUGE amount of options is hardcoded right into the class, allowing for a TON of player agenda at any given point. Speaking of which, there is one very important choice at first level: The orbit.

Essentially, the zodiac is two classes in one: If you choose a lunar orbit, you focus on enhancing your champion: You reduce the cost of champion manifestation by 1 to a minimum of 1 and gain an additional point of essence at 1st level, 2nd level and every even level thereafter. This makes the class, unless I am sorely mistaken, eclipse even the vizier regarding essence, which *may* be slightly overkill. At 4th and 6th level, the lunar zodiac gets Access Low Chakra (Head, Feet or Hands) as a bonus feat; 10th and 12th level provide Access Middle Chakra Slot (Wrists, Headband or Shoulders), and 14th and 16th provide Access Higher Chakra Slot (Neck, Belts). These feats, included within, basically double as a free-form way for characters to gain access to chakra binds to the respective item slot – an option that vastly enhances the flexibility of this system. For the purpose of the zodiac, the chakra bind choices add player agenda into what previously was a linear progression in the akashic context – something I definitely applaud. Something one may easily overlook here in power-comparison would be that the lunar zodiac is missing a couple of the chakra-binds that the vizier can get, for example. The highest level ones (chest, body) won’t be unlocked by the zodiac, and each category only unlocks two of the bind slots, not all three. But let us return to look at the rest of the lunar orbit’s engine, shall we? Lunar zodiacs use Charisma as their governing veilweaving key ability modifier and may shape two veils per day, plus an additional one at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. They may reallocate essence as a swift action.

The second orbit available would be Solar. These zodiacs gain access to proficiency with heavy armor and all martial weapons. They use class level instead of BAB when wielding the weapon manifestations of their constellations and for the purpose of feat effects based on BAB. The solar zodiac also gets a bonus feat on 2nd level and every even level thereafter, chosen from akashic, combat and teamwork feats. Shape Veil is also on this list. It should be noted that for these, the class uses zodiac level as BAB-prerequisite instead. If solar zodiacs take Shape Veil, they use Charisma as veilweaving key ability modifier. So yeah, the solar orbit is basically a veil-less akashic class! Interesting!

At 3rd level and every 6 levels thereafter, the zodiac’s essence capacity for all essence receptacles increases by 1. 5th level further reduces the cost of manifesting opposed element constellation manifestations, from 3 to 2. Additionally, for each constellation of a matching element manifested, the zodiac and his champion inflict +2 damage with weapon attacks and veils shaped that deal hit point damage, with the element governing the energy type as per convention – air adds electricity damage, earth acid – you get the drift. At 11th level, the essence penalty for opposing element constellation manifestations is further reduced by 1, and complimentary elements (fire and air, or earth and water) may now be treated as the same element for the purpose of determining the benefits of the bonus damage: With one earth and water manifestation in place, he’d for example deal +2 acid and +2 cold damage. 17th level gets rid of the essence penalty completely, and having a weapon or armor manifested renders the zodiac immune to the energy type of the corresponding constellation’s element. A manifested champion gains immunity versus their constellation’s energy, but manifesting a champion does NOT bestow the immunity on the zodiac.

7th level provides ½ class level uses of stargazing: An immediate action 1d6 surge to an attack, save or skill check. This must be rolled after rolling the check, but before results are made known. 13th and 19th level increase the die size of this surge to d8 and d10, respectively. At 20th level, we have different capstones, depending on orbit: The lunar orbit zodiac may bind to the body slot and make manifested champions take half damage incurred, and the zodiac may have half damage of a champion apply to another champion instead. The solar orbit zodiac gets immunity to death effects and ability drain, as well as twice the recovery of ability damage. Additionally, manifested armor or weapon cannot be disarmed or sundered. The class comes with a veil-list and 11 favored class options: Cool here: Each gets their own flavor-text. Less cool: The undine FCO does RAW nothing, as it only applies its benefits to water weaponry – and there is none. The animal companion stats for champions have btw. been included for your convenience, which is a huge plus, and same goes for the statblocks required – you won’t need to flip books.

Now, I have already noted a couple of feats, so here goes: The pdf contains 12 feats, of which 5 are, at least to my knowledge, reprints. The new feats include 2 feats that allow for dabbling in the constellation engine. Expanded Veilweaving is SUPER-important: At 11th veilweaving level, it allows you to increase the maximum veils shaped by one. This ALSO applies if you use Shape Veils and have no veilweaving class level, which is REALLY smart. Definite winner there. Stellar Strike is an akashic combat feat that allows you to enhance the damage caused by your constellation weapons via essence investiture, and there are 3 chess-themed feats: Queen’s Knight (enhance loyalty between you and champion, preventing compulsions etc.); King’s Castle (allows you to intercept attacks on allies; great for tank-y characters) and Pawn’s Sacrifice (use Sense Motive to redirect the attack to a veil companion or champion). The latter is a bit iffy, due to how easily Sense Motive can and will be boosted through the roof, but since it is no attack negation, but rather a redirect, I’m pretty good with it. I’d feel better about a hard-cap of uses or a cool-down, though. 4 neat traits are included in the deal as well.

There are three archetypes included: Albedo fighters gain Perihelion pauldrons and reflect rays; knights that are literally, clad n light. The celestial knight cavalier uses a quadruped champion as mount (essence cost 4 or less, until 8th level) and later gains the weapon, armor or equipment options of a constellation. The prism mage wizard archetype is based on the Aurora lenses veil, and basically represents a cool concept of the spellcaster who also happens to dabble in magical lenses.

Part II of my review can be found here!


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front and back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1/2 a page advertisement, leaving us with 9.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

My reviews of this series were requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

This adventure, like all in the series, uses the OSRIC rule-set, but can easily be converted to other old-school rules. It should be a given by now that there are a few formatting peculiarities that are still consistent in their application, so boil down to a matter of aesthetics. The cartography is functional, as always, but we don’t get a player-friendly version. This adventure is intended for level 5 – 7 characters and a well-rounded party is very much recommended. As far as supplemental material is concerned, we have an artifact that plays a part in the story (would have been nice to get a means of destruction, but that may just be me) and an evil magical weapon, a mace that evil clerics will adore. The pdf also includes a new monster with its own illustration, the barrow golem, a being that can encapsulate PCs…pretty nasty one!

All right, that’s as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! *ähem* “The Clans are marching ‘gainst the law/bagpipers play the tunes of war/death or glory I will find/rebellion on my mind!” Richard Dirkloch has rallied the clans of a moor-like Highland region to march against the good King Oldavin, whose men have burned Dirkloch’s beloved for the witch she admittedly were; the battle was fierce, but in the end, the good King did triumph…but Richard Dirkloch is not yet vanquished and found. Having retreated to his barrow fortress, built atop the ruins of castle Grimspire, it’ll be up to the PCs to bring Dirkloch in and squash his plans for sedition, which actually turn out to be darker than anticipated!

The PCs begin their adventure on the field of battle, with several means of getting them there provided. The gravemoor as a region comes with an appropriately creepy array of different possible random encounters that make sense and don’t devolve into the too fantastic…and when they reach the Gravemoor barrow mound pool, they’re in for a surprise: Richard Dirkloch assaults them as a wight with unique properties – this establishes the antagonist early and allows the GM to roleplay the dichotomy between sadist and romantic lord. Sooner or later, he’ll retreat to the ice-cold and murky depths of the pool, leaving the PCs to explore the grave moor barrow mound, which is a combination of maze and regular dungeon – and it is littered with secret doors.

The winding tunnels and non-linear-structure of the barrow hill make for a surprisingly, considering the brevity, nonlinear experience here. Secret doors galore conspire with the dungeon’s global effects to generate a sense of claustrophobia I did not expect. Even better, this is also enforced by global rules applied to the dungeon, penalizing attacks with anything but small weapons, and the curved structure means that ranged weapons are less effective as well – an excellent example on how a dungeon’s design and map can help emphasize the theme and generate atmosphere. Two thumbs up!

This intelligent notion also extends to the keyed encounters in this massive mound – while there are only 7, these do have in common that they provide twists on classics and feature evocative adversaries. Strategies for Ach na Creig the gleistig, half woman, half goat, are provided, and manage to make her a credible threat. This all-killer, no-filler attention also extends to the terrain features like magical pools, a lobratory – there is player-agenda here, and e.g. cleaning a saint’s statue may net a potent boon. Hidden below the barrow level, there is the second level of the dungeon. Smaller and more compact, it represents a respite from the horrors of the claustrophobic barrow and doubles as the base of Dirkloch, where his undead steed and personal quarters await – and where he will orchestrate his masterplan, unless stopped: Courtesy of the midnight opal, he seeks to animate the untold fallen soldiers and lead an undead army against the king – preferably with his bride returned to his side…and only the PCs stand between him and the fulfillment of his ambition…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column, classic old-school style, right down to the font. The artworks are b/w and solid, and the cartography is functional, but we do not get player maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew Hind delivers big time here. The plot and dungeon scenario are both classics, and executing these well, in a matter that does not feel stale or bland, is an achievement indeed. The concise writing not only produces a very atmospheric dungeon, it also manages to make the adversary plausible, the struggle against him more personal and thus, engrossing. This is, at least for me, the best of the early Advanced Adventures – it manages to evoke more atmosphere than many modules of thrice that size, leaving me just with the lack of player-friendly maps as a serious criticism. This time, though, I do feel that mapping is such a crucial part of the experience, even in VTT-scenarios, that the module doesn’t suffer from their omission. While this may be brief, it is better than many longer adventures - quality over quantity.

As such, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This installment of Drop Dead Studios‘ expansion of the Spheres of Power-series clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We should start analyzing this book from the back, as the last chapter provides quite a few rather important clarifications of the Creation sphere’s parameters – particularly, the woefully brief definition of what can and can’t be created receives a much-needed, more precise clarification that should prove to be a boon for many GMs out there. Interaction with magic items, anchoring items and destruction/dismissal of objects also are very much relevant. Additionally, the base sphere now allows for the expenditure of a single spell point to extend the duration to 1 minute per level SANS concentration. That part is important and helps render the sphere significantly more appealing. The pdf also clarifies the interaction of the creation of multiple falling options and size categories and the creation of slippery and dangerous terrain. Similarly, the creation of very small objects and dropping objects is tightly codified, making these rules-clarifications pages worth the price on their own.

All right, that out of the way, if we do tackle this supplement in a linear manner, we begin with a well-written introductory prose before presenting an assortment of new archetypes, which begins with the lingichi warrior for the armorist base class, who receives proficiency in light and martial + 1 exotic weapon as well as light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Instead of summon equipment and quick summons, the archetype provides armory arena, which allows for the summoning of an infinite array of weapons surrounding the warrior, causing damage in an area surrounding the character that grows over the level, with damage caused allowing for the choosing of physical damage type. The character may exclude targets up to spellcasting ability modifier from the aura, and the aura leaves a difficult terrain of weaponry in its wake, allowing characters to pick them up and fight. Higher levels allow for the use of create in conjunction with the ability, making it possible to establish the aura in a faster manner.

Higher levels also provide the means to maintain multiple contiguous auras. Instead of bound equipment, higher levels provide scaling enhancement bonuses for these ephemeral weapons; armor training is replaced with nimble and the archetype receives no less than 10 exclusive tricks that provide the means to use spell points to increase the damage output, control between enhancement bonus and special abilities, establishing a kind of control within the arena, exclude targets from the difficult terrain effect, have weapons dance…this archetype is INSPIRED. I mean it. Perhaps it’s the otaku within me, but I found myself reminded of Fate’s Gilgamesh and similar characters. This is a very magical archetype, and obviously not one for super-gritty settings due to its theme and supreme magic item flexibility, but for high fantasy? HECK frickin’ yes!

Archetype number two would be the word witch for the fey adept class, who uses Intelligence as spellcasting ability modifier and gains, surprise, the Creation sphere as a bonus magic talent, replacing fey magic. Instead of master illusionist, creations made by the archetype that require maintenance or concentration, ultimately remain for +1/2 class level (min 1) rounds. Shadowstuff is replaced with a massive engine-tweak dubbed “words of creation”, which is powered by a word pool equal to Int mod + ½ class level, with the DC being the classic 10 + ½ class level + Int-mod, if any. These word points may be used to create a wide variety of effects that include the creation of runes of flame that may then be launched in bulk or against multiple targets; similarly pillars of ice trapping targets, severe blasts of wind (correctly codified!) and analogue effects can be created – overall, I enjoyed these and was once more reminded of a rather compelling ability array, with higher levels providing the means to render objects animated or silver them. The adamantine coating is also secured behind an appropriate minimum level, and the archetype provides an alternate capstone.

Next up would be the dustbringer mageknight, who gains proficiency with simple and monk weapons as well as light armor, and begins play with the wrecker oracle curse as well as Creation and the limited creation drawback – as always, this can be offset if the character already has the sphere. The archetype nets alter (destroy), which should, alongside the curse and name, cue you in on what it specializes in: The dustbringer is an unarmed monk-y item-destruction specialist that blends unarmed strike with alter (destroy) and sports 7 unique mystic combat options that include auras that can destroy incoming attacks, extend the ability of alter (destroy) to animated objects and constructs, or, with another talent, living beings etc. Minor complaint here: Formatting isn’t perfect in this one and somewhat inconsistent. Some moderate Destruction sphere synergy is also possible, allowing for (blast shape) talents to be added.

The thaumaturge may elect for the path of the knight of willpower, who modifies forbidden lore to add +50% CL increase to Creation, Light and Telekinesis, though this does not influence invocation bonus. This may be boosted even further, but at the cost of unavoidable backlash. I consider the increase here to be somewhat overkill – sure, the drawback is significant, but the escalation of CL is something that worries me greatly. The meditation and lingering pain invocations are replaced with Will-save rerolling and adding a shaken effect to glow effects from the Light sphere. They also get a buff/debuff aura versus fear plus immunity instead of occult knowledge, and an alternate bonus feat list. Incanters can gain two new specializations, one of which, at 2 points, Master of Creation, prevents taking Sphere Focus (Creation) and represents a specialization here, while Sword Birth nets armory arena and limited arsenal tricks. Hedgewitches may choose the new transmuter tradition, which nets Knowledge (engineering) and (nature) as well as Intimidate and limited use item changing via touch that improves regarding the maximum size of item affected at higher levels. Later, these folks may transmute objects into creatures and animals into different types, while also bestowing knowledge on how to use this new body via one of the 4 new tradition secret. 3 grand ones are also included here. A general one allows for dabbling in these tricks, and the section closes with a talent for the unchained rogue to create tools.

The undoubtedly most important chapter within this book, though, would be the basic magic section, wherein the creation of alchemical items and poisons is tightly codified and makes for a very important, and flexibility-wise super cool modification. Similarly, being capable of altering unattended non-magical objects in burst is great…and creating objects with momentum makes dropping objects on foes a significantly more feasible option. Fans of the Loony Tunes should take heed! The update of the Expanded Materials talent, which encompasses acidic creation, gaseous creation, plasma production, etc. is similarly a godsend. Magnifying and minimizing objects, creating matter from force, generating significant amounts of liquid…and what about the talent that lets you generate a constant stream of replicas with your effects. Manipulating how rigid objects are, creating restraining cases for targets, making material transparent…this chapter is a complex expansion to the sphere that it desperately needed, and it presents a whole slew of versatile options for clever players.

The advanced talent array this time around, and it contains 10 advanced talents; as an aside, I am not the biggest fan of the talent Plasma Production having the same name as the ability of the subsection of aforementioned Expanded Materials: Plasma Production; a single “advanced” or somesuch word would have made working with the nomenclature here easier, but that is me nitpicking. And yes, this allows for the creation of energy weapons. Want a light sword? There you go! Really high-level characters can learn to create adamantine and similar materials, and yes, with these, you can use advanced talents to modify the body of targets into other materials. Skin of gold? Yes, siree! There also are crossover tricks here – spherecasters that also have the Nature sphere and fire package can create/alter lava and magma. Picture me cackling maniacally here. All in all, I very much enjoyed this section as well.

The pdf then proceeds to present no less than 12 different feats. Once more, formatting is not always perfect within these pages, but there are feats that provide multiclassing support…and there are some really neat ones: One lets you ready an action (alternatively, works with spell point + immediate actions) to alter destructive blasts and codifies the types via damage and interaction there correctly. Countering ranged attacks and spell effects is another pretty potent and cool option here. The classic Dual Sphere talent array that we expect here is included as well, providing synergy with e.g. Enhancement and Telekinesis. Creating longer walls and disguise specializing via wardrobe creation may be found as well. 4 traits can be found – these are potent and meaningful, going beyond boring numerical bonuses.

The drawbacks presented are interesting: Being limited to water/ice/steam creation, to gaseous forms or needing to be in contact with objects certainly made me think of comic book heroes and interesting character concepts. Using your own body in a painful way to “create” could be seen as an interesting engine base-line to duplicate an array of iconic scenes as well. The pdf also sports a new general drawback that requires the drawing of a diagram to work – this reminded me, obviously, of Full Metal Alchemist – and that is a good thing. The section also presents 7 alternate racial traits that focus, unsurprisingly, on the Creation sphere.

Finally, it should be noted that the pdf contains 6 magic items. Beyond aforementioned energy swords, there is the +3-equivalent plasma blade property; Wall slats allow for a the creation of expanding walls as a nice low-cost item. The wizard’s cube of gaming is basically a fold-out gaming table and acts as a challenge of skill and luck that rewards those that play well; two variants of this item are also part of the deal here.

Conclusion:

Editing per se is very good on a formal and rules-language level; formatting, on the other hand, isn’t. I encountered quite a bunch of faulty italicizations and formatting instances of rules-relevant material, and due to the complexity of the system at hand the nomenclature employed, these deviations made a couple of rules harder to grasp than they otherwise would have been. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Uhland has vastly improved his design-game since his humble beginnings. The handbook for the creation sphere certainly was one of the harder ones to craft, much less provide inspiring and interesting content for. This pdf manages to achieve that and makes creation fun and exciting, clarifies rules and vastly expands the material at hand. This would, were it not for the annoying formatting hiccups, my favorite handbook in the whole series so far; it offers a bunch of very interesting character options; unique feats, great talents – all in all, this is a really, really cool supplement and a worthy addition to the series. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will round up for the purpose of this platform. The book is too good to round down. Well done!

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 1.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This supplement contains a total of 15 new magus arcana, so let’s take a look!

-Abundant Metamagic: This arcana needs another arcana that adds metamagic effects to a magus spell with daily uses, and allows for the payment of arcana points to not expend the limited uses of such metamagic enhancer arcanas. Nice. Should probably specify requiring such an arcana as a prerequisite, though.

-Augmented Aspergillum: Upgrades the damage of the holy water in a battle aspergillum wielded in conjunction with spellstrike. Damn cool!! Love it!

-Blunt Strike: When dealing nonlethal weapon damage, the magus may choose to make the spell delivered via spellstriek nonlethal as well. Nice one!

-Combat Trapper: Another winner, this one allows for mancatcher magus use, as well as the channeling of spells into said catcher. Super iconic – picture the elite squad, subduing dangerous folks that way…Two thumbs up!

-Concealed Strike: Renders opponent flat-footed versus Conceal Spell-enhanced spellstrikes. Ouch!

-Consume Spells: Nets consume spells for magus arcane pool points instead. Not a fan, as it delimits the resource. It also doesn’t work RAW: The arcana specifies items as source, not magus spells, which generates a ton of questions regarding if they go dormant, if items wielded by enemies can be targeted etc.

-Dweomer Brace: Brace/spell combo. Nice!

-Ethereal Strike: Pay arcana when using spellstrike with ghost touch to bypass incorporeal traits with the spell. (Has a min. level cap that holds it in check.)

-Hypnotizing Strike: Use hypnotist’s lockets or nunchakus to add Reach Spell to touch attack spells, but these do allow, thankfully, for a save.

-Magus Exploit: Replace an arcana with an arcanist exploit. Not a fan.

-Polearm Sweep: Cool one: Modify a cone-spell to instead affect all squares threatened with polearm, min 6th level.

-Sand Spray: Use poisoned sand tubes to deliver touch spells as part of a ranged attack, changing delivery method and allowing for a unique, cone-shaped variant with a short-range and tight rules. That being said, the arcana should specify that the three spells that can be imbued at once in the poisoned sand should have a limitation regarding casting time. That being said, impressive to see the spell recall synergy here done right.

-Shining Limelight: liming weapon property added, plus unique debuff added, though that one should have a duration stated.

-Spell bash: Shield Bash-dispel combo. Nice!

-Swift Augmentation: Spend arcane pool points to enhance the weapon s part of expending a swift action to trigger a magus class feature.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with not much to complain about. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a neat artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jen McTeague is an author who needs more work. So far, I have been impressed by everything she has penned, and this is no different. At this point in time, it is remarkable that a class as well-supported as the magus has still so many blind spots, and many arcana within actually allow for thoroughly exciting and unique combinations. I do consider a few of them to be slightly problematic, but similarly, there are more than I expected that I really ended up loving, that managed to inspire me. And, as always, I prefer daring design and complex tricks over bland and safe perfection. This humble pdf had more arcana inside that made me come up with character ideas than almost every such file I have previously read. As a reviewer, though, I have to take these minor flaws into account, which is why I can’t rate this higher than 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

This adventure is intended for characters level 6 – 10, and in this case, the level-range is well-supported by the actual playing experience; you see, this module very much champions the old-school aesthetics of risk-reward-ratio; it is possible to experience this module as relatively easy, or as truly brutal, with player-greed very much dictating the difficulty and potential fallout stemming from exploring the complex depicted within. A well-rounded group is very much recommended to successfully tackle this one.

Now, it should be noted that the text on the back cover can make for a kind of introductory read-aloud text for the adventure, with the means of the PCs getting the eponymous keys otherwise not specified. As always in the series, we do not get read-aloud text or the like, the rules-system in question would be OSRIC, and internal formatting of rules-relevant information does not always adhere to the standards. The maps are b/w and functional, though the brief overland wilderness trek map provided lacks both scale and grid, which makes calculating traveling distances a tad bit annoying. While I’m on the subject of maps: The module sports the complex dubbed “Solitude” and the tunnels beneath it and has a clever means to prompt the PCs to explore, but more on that later in the SPOILER-section. In a really unfortunate decision, the module uses straight numbers for the rooms above and areas below the surface – thus, the short table that is supposed to help the GM track the whereabouts of the missing keys is less useful than it should be. The key is in room 14? Okay, which of the two? It’s a small thing that could have been rectified with simply adding letters to prevent mix ups and constitutes an unfortunate comfort-detriment. It’s not something that wrecks the adventure, mind you, but it’s so obvious, I wondered why it hadn’t been implemented. Instead, the subterranean complex uses letters to designate rooms that belong to humanoid territories, which makes the whole numbering/lettering convention feel a bit unfocused. There are no player-friendly maps included.

The adventure, though longer than usual for the series, spans 17 pages, with the rest devoted to supplemental material, in particular to a smattering of new creatures. 2 spells are provided: Champion of the Tome enchants a book to have a fighter-version of the caster appear to defend it, while Phineus’ Writhing Tentacles is a cool and dangerous spell to call forth the class mass of tentacles, which also gets a blinding effect, but makes up for that by blindly flailing at any target in range. The module also includes 5 magic items, which are per se solid, though the army of tireless tin soldiers is missing its XP-value. EDIT: I believe in owning up to my mistakes, so tehre goes: I misread this item to not be an artifact, when it clearly is. Mea culpa! Now, as far as the monsters are concerned, I’ll cover those in the GM-section below.

The module is in so far interesting in that it captures in an expert fashion the feeling of a very classic D&D-esque fantasy; from the random encounters in the wilderness to the constellations of adversaries faced, the adventure successfully evokes the fantastic vibe of old-school gaming with a slightly subdued, gonzo angle; you know, the feeling you had when you first encountered druids acting as rust monster shepherds? There is a sense of a very classic fantasy vibe that does not cross over into the weird or totally gonzo. If you enjoyed the old AD&D-classics like Desert of Desolation, then you’ll know what I mean.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. From here on out, only GMs should continue reading.

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs, after having encountered a weird hermit, have received some plaques depicting animals, which seem to interact when brought together, and which seem to provide a map through a mountain pass towards an unknown destination called “Solitude.” The wilderness trek, which does come with random encounters, is wholly linear in its fashion, as the terrain of the pass does not offer for opportunities to deviate from it. While the adversaries faced contain vermin and similar critters, there also is a valley where quite a few quickgrasses sprout´, and a fool’s dragon pair (think weaker, dumber dragon-like lizards) also waits in the way.

But what lies at the end of the journey? Well, Solitude is actually a monastery – or at least it looks like it. A slain T-rex, with plenty of meat cut from its flanks is a great example for the “(A)D&D-ishness” of the module: You see, while Solitude had lain abandoned for a long time, its gates have been since breached by spriggan siblings that lead a small army of gnolls. In the aftermath of inadvertently setting free the T-rex, one of the spriggans died, triggering a schism between the remaining siblings, who each have since taken their (rather well-equipped!) surviving gnolls, those that the dinosaur didn’t eat, that is, and started plotting the downfall of their brethren. An enterprising GM and smart players can observe these latent hostilities and exploit them, for the PCs will have to explore both monastery and the caverns below to truly find everything here – and encounter the strange creatures below.

The bestiary includes a predator that eats jellies and oozes and can spit them at targets; spiders that have developed a symbiotic relationship with deadly fungi; pixies degenerated into stirge-like beings – the pdf, in its best moments, feels like a celebration of the old-school vibe we all know and love. Not all critters are this creative, though: A deadly ambulatory fungus, a race of small degenerate humanoids and a magic-eating slime aren’t exactly super exciting. The bone-sovereign depicted on the cover, however, is surprisingly cool, and there is a fungal ring that can act as a safe haven for good folks…but will try to digest evil-doers and all nearby! Really neat! The pdf also includes stats for an elemental prince of water and a unique and horrid undead, ritually created via starvation (not as easy as it sounds, as the grueling ritual is described) – and the latter two should provide a clue to what Solitude actually is.

Some readers may have already come to the right conclusion, but let me spell it out nonetheless. Solitude, at one point, was a kind of artifact-level magical prison, and the tablets, the keys, are literally that – they open the cells of the inhabitants of Solitude, the inmates if you will. The erstwhile wardens have fallen prey to corruption and died, but the prisoners remain and include a dragon who has managed to tie her lifeforce to a volcano – slaying her may cause an eruption and untold suffering! Some other cells just hold treasure, though – so, once the PCs realize what this complex is, will they gamble? The T-rex freed by the spriggans provides ample warning for greedy PCs, so they can’t claim to not have been warned…

However, if the PCs are to collect all keys, they will also have to interact with the two sentient rodent species below the complex: On one hand, the Mus Maximus, smart mouse-people, make for unique and good folks that can be a boon; on the other hand, the groundlings, sentient groundhogs that are invisible to the undead make for a far less pleasant company…I was surprised to note that I did enjoy these two micro-societies and their depiction. All in all, this module has a lot of what I want in an adventure, and it executes its premise and flavor well; however, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like the premise of the module could have carried much more. Ultimately, the keys only grant access to rooms and that’s it. There is no sequence to the exploration, there are no ways for clever PCs to e.g. lock down parts of the complex with the keys and potentially make hostile forces take each other out after being caged. The evocative visuals and magical natures of the keys would have lent themselves superbly to making this a module where smart PCs could use the terrain to triumph against overwhelming odds, to quarantine evils inadvertently unleashed with foes, slowly whittling down enemy strengths. In short, the premise of the adventure is far stronger than the somewhat disappointingly mundane execution of the artifact-prison angle. Don’t get me wrong – I like this module. But I began reading this as super-excited and couldn’t help but feel somewhat blasé about the actual implementation of the concept. With a few less pages devoted to monsters, and a more clever dungeon, this could have been one classic for the ages.

Similarly, a timeline for the factions and the like, some clearly stated goals and agendas and subquests would have taken up not much real estate, but would have added to the sense of the complex being alive.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, bordering on very good, with formatting, as noted before, being somewhat inconsistent. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice, old-school b/w-artworks. Not all monsters get art, but quite a few do. Cartography is serviceable, though the numbering/lettering conventions are somewhat unfortunately chosen. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

The team of Joseph Browning and Suzi Yee delivers a module that truly breathes the spirit of old-school (A)D&D; it *feels* right, and that tone is harder to hit than one would imagine. The adversaries faced are clever and brought me back to the time when I devoured the descriptions of ecologies of odd beings and monsters back in the day. I’m not a nostalgic man, but this hits the tone admirably well. That being said, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like this module could have made the step towards masterpiece simply by making full use of its amazing premise, which, at least to me, ultimately it did not end up realizing to its full potential. All in all, I consider this to be an adventure worth checking out if you’re looking for a neat old-school module. This is not the most convenient adventure out there, and its central concept for the complex could have been realized in an infinitely more rewarding manner, but as a whole, I do believe that this is worth a final verdict of 3.5 stars. For me as a person, I will round down. However, as a reviewer, I have an in dubio pro reo policy and thus will round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

This module clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page SRD, leaving us with 10.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.

As always for the series, we have OSRIC as the default old-school system employed, and there are a few formatting deviations. Adaption to other old-school systems is pretty simple.

So, let me preface this review by stating one thing: The complex depicted herein is an inverted, subterranean pyramid, and this module has been penned by the same author as the utterly atrocious “Prison of Meneptah” – without the request by my patreons, I would not have bothered reviewing this, as I derive no satisfaction from trashing other people’s work. I am, as a whole, happy that this was requested, for while this can be construed to be a “bad” module in some regards, it can be rather intriguing for the right groups.

Now, the first thing you need to know, is that this hasn’t seen playtest – that much is pretty evident. The level-range noted, level 4 – 7, is ridiculous. Even at level 7, this adventure is exceedingly difficult and lethal. At the same time, however, much of this difficulty is derived from the demands the adventure has on the PLAYERS.

The angle is pretty simple: The PCs are hired to dig down at a hypostyle in a quasi-Egyptian environment. Now, the pdf does note that PCs won’t necessarily understand hieroglyphs they find; either they are locales, or they have a scholar on call that can slowly translate these. The adventure is probably not something the PCs can clear up in one go. There is a good chance the PCs and players will ram their heads against the solid brick wall of difficulty this adventure constitutes. Now, the “quasi” prefix of “quasi-Egyptian” is one potential weakness of the adventure that may well disqualify the module for your game: You see, being “close” to Egyptian does not suffice – the modules REQUIRES a VERY close analogue to real world Egyptian mythology and customs. It also requires that the players know a lot about the subject matter – and I mean A LOT. As such, if your group tends to differentiate sharply between character and player knowledge, you may consider this adventure to be problematic, to say the least.

As far as the dungeon is concerned, we do not have a lot of combat going on, which is a good thing here, as this is where the rules tend to falter badly; instead, we have a distinct focus on cultural puzzles and set-pieces. While the adventure is EXCEEDINGLY linear, the complex does not suffers from the sucky “Door closes, save or die” and “can’t use your tools” asinine design decisions of Meneptah’s prison. There is a stringent, internal logic to this adventure.

That being said, I consider this to be top tier difficulty and only an adventure that should be attempted by roleplaying game veterans, and only by groups that have at least one member that has PhD-levels of knowledge regarding Egyptian culture/archaeology/anthropology. I am NOT kidding, but in order to elaborate upon this fact, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around?

So, as the name implies, legendary Imhotep constructed this pyramid. Think of the fellow as a wrld-weary demigod-level magical architect, and that is EXACTLY how he designed this complex. This is steeped in myth and as deadly as you’d expect. In the first proper room, we see locust-like flying devices, which would allow for the spanning of a vast pit. An inscription tells the PCs to become like Apshai and do aerial battle – and indeed, enter the 2-seater locust constructs initiates an aerial battle with analogue constructs attacking from the opposite side of the vast pit. While we are told about ammunition, how you tilt the joysticks to move them, etc., and ramming notes, neither ammunition, nor ramming damage are codified regarding the damage they inflict. While you can theoretically try to extrapolate the damage from the stats of the flying constructs, these have 3 attacks, with one dealing much more damage…which I assume is supposed to be the collision damage. Then again, the shots + collision will usually not be triggered in the same round, so ultimately, I was left utterly puzzled by how these are supposed to work. It’s not hard to improvise rules here, but yeah. Bad crunch design. Neither does the pdf note how many piece of ammo they can fire, their worth when removed, etc. Oh, and since the PCs aren’t accustomed to using these, they take a -5 (!!!) penalty to attack rolls. WTF. The smartest choice here is to activate the hostile constructs, hang back and shoot the incoming constructs out of the air. There is nothing that RAW prevents this, in spite of the note.

Room 2 has a statue that requires in-depth knowledge regarding Egyptian mythology and beliefs. 4 questions must be answered to pass, and here, all groups that don’t have this IRL-knowledge will probably be annoyed. “Who records the judgment of Osiris?” “In man, where does the seat of wisdom reside?” Those are two of the 4 questions, and if you’re not really into the nit and grit of ancient mythologies and the like, there is a big chance that this may grind the game to a halt. This is, as the ardent scholar may know, based on the Book of the Dead, and indeed, I strongly recommend a copy on hand when running this adventure.

As the PCs venture further, they will have to place vanquished undead within the mouth of Ammit, Eater of the Dead, as one further example of a relatively…”simple” task. It is in these that the module manages to evoke a concise atmosphere, manages to feel like it indeed is a proving ground made for the aeons. That being said, when the more mundane aspects are concerned, the adventure is less inspired – for example, a prismatic spray trap in a chest? At this level? That’s just nasty.

There is another “insect-vehicle”-battle scenario herein, where the PCs pilot basically a scarab tank, which alas, suffers from pretty much the same issues as the previous locust-encounter, but which should definitely be won: The scarab tank is the only means to reliably navigate a vacuum corridor, though thankfully, if destroyed, the PCs can still brave it – though that, indeed, is a save or die. The complex includes a Ra-themed mirror puzzle, a game of senet (yep, rules provided), rope-pulling with Set to balance the forces of good and evil, and PCs will have to bake sacred mefekezet bread to proceed. And no, if they have no idea what to do…well, bad luck. As noted before, this is not a forgiving module and requires extensive knowledge on part of the players.

Oh, and know what’s really sadistic? That mirror puzzle? Well, you need the sacred Benben stone to activate it. That stone, though? Slightly radioactive. Scratch that. Frickin’ radioactive. 1d4 damage every TURN. In a radius. No, the PCs are not told where that comes from. The stone’s on level 1. And while the levels are brief, it’s used on level 3 and the puzzle-heavy nature of the scenario will result in delays. This is just sadistic and requires very methodical players to solve. Clever deduction can zero in on the source, sure…but ouch.

The Pcs will also need to extract a bulb from the serpents of wisdom and survive battle with them…and if they don’t learn from the stone and don’t take the bulb along, they may be screwed. You see, there is an intricate, undetectable trap called “birthing of cosmic eggs” that will grind them to a pulp. It also seals the PCs in the area, and if they don’t have the bulb…well, tough luck. This trap is conceptually really interesting, but try as I might, perhaps due to the map, I couldn’t envision it – having a visual representation of the room would have been really helpful here – I kinda suspect a miscommunication regarding cartography here.

Ultimately, the PCs have to bypass multiple elemental walls (note that excess oxygen can poison you…) and make their way to the top of the inverted pyramid, which hangs from the ceiling in a vast flooded cavern: With the bulb, they can activate the barge towards Imhotep’s true resting place – provided they’re not eaten by giant crocodiles. Imhotep himself still awaits the worthy and rewards the PCs with something that is indeed in line with the challenge: Immortality.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, we have several pretty nasty issues crop up. Layout adheres to the classic two-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks provided are solid, if perhaps chosen for the wrong components. Cartography is a no-frills b/w and functional, though, as noted, one map is a bit weird, to say the least. There are no player-friendly versions of the maps included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Okay, to spell that out loud and clearly: This is not a well-designed module. The rules are problematic, the challenges uneven and deadly, and without out-game information or a scholar on call, the PCs have next to no chance to solve this with in-game logic. This is brutal, linear and harsh and fulfills pretty much all aspects of game-design that I’d consider to be bad.

Here’s the thing: For a VERY specific target demographic, this is frickin’ amazing. And, alas, I am part of that target demographic. I once created a puzzle where the PCs had to assign a gigantic astrolabe to duplicate the constellations of a specific event that required a thorough understanding of the respective mythology. And my players like that kind of cerebral, lore-heavy problem solving. This adventure is extremely well-researched in pretty much every way; it often feels a bit like a point and click adventure and is horribly linear, yes. It is also horribly lethal. In fact, most folks should probably consider this to be a 2 star adventure at the maximum. Most groups will absolutely LOATHE this and should steer clear.

That being said: If you and your groups enjoy clever puzzles AND you are well-versed in mythology and culture AND your players are roleplaying games veterans that enjoy a brutal challenge AND they are the type that can approach a dungeon methodically AND you’re willing to improve on the flawed rules, then this can be AMAZING. I all of these components hold true for you and yours, then this can be a truly unique and captivating experience that will go down in the group’s annals.

Alphonso Warden’s “Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” is, in a way, like a really inaccessible cult movie or book that was written for a very niche audience. A niche audience I happen to know very well.

How to rate this?

Let me state that clearly once more: You should NOT get this module if all of the above doesn’t appeal to you, if you want mechanical perfection, etc. This is, when examined for its virtues of game-design, structure, etc., not a good module.

However, if you do love your mythology; if your players like challenges and are well-versed in ancient cultures or would enjoy you handing them the Book of the Dead as a kind of “research-handout”, if that type of thing sounds cool to you, then chances are that you’ll enjoy this far more than you should. As a person, I had a blast with this module! I really did! I am very cognizant of its copious flaws, of its massive issues, but it’s creative, smart and deadly – and if this sounds like it’d tickle the fancy of your group as well, then check this out. For you, this may even be as high as a 4 or 4.5 star-adventure.

Now, as a reviewer, I can’t bring myself to rate this down as much as I probably should; after all, there is a very specific appeal in these pages. I can’t rate this twice. Hence, my official verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down – though I strongly suggest you instead consider this to have the verdicts I mentioned above, depending on your proclivities. For the very niche number of groups that this appeals to, it will do so in a thoroughly compelling manner.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

2/5

This adventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, as always for the series, the default rules employed within are OSRIC, and similarly, it’s easy to convert this to your preferred old-school gaming system. As always for the series, we have some formatting deviations from the standard. The module sports functional b/w-artworks, but these come without a player-friendly version.

As far as supplemental material is concerned, the pdf comes with two different magic items, one of which, oddly has lower XP values than the other, in spite of being worth more GP – some might object to that, though I did not mind.

The book also comes with new monsters: A generic tentacle thing, and a 12-feet tall stone beast with a horn can knock back/stun targets. Both left me unimpressed. Worse: A whole page is devoted to umbra smoke beasts. 8 boring shadow-smoke-y monsters that look like, for example, spiders. Or draconic creatures. Yay. Worse here: Their rules suck: “An arachnid can inflict its opponent with a venom that will cause the victim to slowly fade into shadow.” Okay. Rules? There are none. Save? No idea. That’s not the only error in these beasts on the page – and the sucky smoke beasts take up a whole page of an already brief adventure. Also weird: The eye-picking raptor RAW plucks out an eye with every attack…or it targets the throat. Effects of being struck on the throat? No idea. This is the most potent of these beasts regarding its effects, and it grants the least XP. The monster-section is a failure and uncharacteristically weak for both series and author.

As always, a well-rounded party is very much required. The pdf does note what can be gleaned via legend lore, and 10 rumors are provided. The pdf does note random encounters outside the dungeon, which includes three special ones with slightly more details. These are unspectacular, though. Cool: The pdf does note a variety of strange and haunt-like effects that can be used by the GM to retain the creepy atmosphere of the dungeon. Nominally, this module is for characters level 8 – 12, but considering how deadly it is, I consider 12 to be closer to what you probably want.

Now, in order to discuss the two-level dungeon contained herein, I need to get into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great, so Nav’k-Qar is basically a Tsathoggua-style Frog Demon God-stand-in who has fallen into obscurity; if you’re a fan of Frog God Games’ Lost Lands, integrating this module should not provide issues – make Nav’k-Qar a lieutenant etc. and be done with it. The dungeon’s floors are littered with a vast amount of toad bones, making navigation of the complex tricky –being required to “move quickly” means 40% chance of falling, -5% per Dex above 13. I *assume* that “moving quickly” means moving more than half movement rate, but this could have been more precise.

The first room is probably one of the best in the whole dungeon, with strange mists and mirrors establishing a really cool theme of deception, one that the dungeon, alas, fails to maintain. While the first level does branch and sports a really deadly false stairs deathtrap (which may seal in all PCs…), a lying golem, almost-instant-death crossbow-bolt trap (that fails to specify whether it requires an attack or save)…the traps are pretty deadly and generally interesting, but ultimately make the module feel basically like a convention-style meat-grinder. Compared to James C. Boney’s usual adventures, these traps feel less refined.

The module, alas, takes a further nosedive on the second level. We get 3 antechambers; from each antechamber, two of the eponymous 7 shrines can be accessed. The PCs will have to visit both shrines accessible to progress to the next antechamber. No means to bypass them, no rewards for smart players. The PCs have to “defeat” the shrine. What constitutes “defeating” it? No idea. It’s simple enough for the shrines that conjure monsters, but not for the trap-based ones. The trap-shrines are per se clever, but also fail – each shrine comes with a dread proclamation from Nav’k-Qar’s doctrine, which are in no real way related to the challenge. Smart PCs can perhaps avoid some of the more deadly effects.

Oh, and if the PCs miss one trap, they may end up buried, which has excellent chances of further cave-ins killing them. The final treasures sport a save-or-die poison needle, where the pdf notes “and it would be a shame to come this far and be taken out by a needle” – that’s just dickish. Then again, after this module, failing to check for traps would be a gross oversight.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good. On a rules-language level, the adventure isn’t half as tight as usual for the series or the author. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard with solid b/w-artworks and functional b/w-maps. There are no player-friendly maps, which is a comfort detriment. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience.

Odd. James C. Boney’s adventures are usually better. This feels like a pretty uninspired convention-game meat-grinder, one that sports several rules-inconsistencies, is needlessly lethal without really earning it, and the bonus critters are uninspired. I can, from the top of my head, name more than 10 (!!) frog demon god-themed adventures that mop the floor with these shrines. The adventure has some great ideas in a couple of rooms, with perception-mind-games, but these remain an afterthought. All in all, this module suffers from its brevity and leaves me with an overwhelming feeling of missed potential. I can’t go higher than 2.5 stars on this one, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, as pretty much always for the series, this module uses the OSRIC rules-set and is easy enough to adjust to other old-school systems. It’s intended for characters level 2- 4, and a well-rounded group is very much suggested. That being said, difficulty-level-wise, I consider this to be a tough, but fair challenge – the module per se can be pretty tough if you want to “clear” the module and score all the treasure; focusing on the story makes it easier to complete – risk-reward ratio is sound.

Sand-borne lamprey like worms, stats for scorpion swarms and a giant black scorpion are included within, alongside another new critter, the vermin dog. More on those critters later. The cartography is functional, b/w, and, as always, we unfortunately don’t get player-friendly versions of the maps.

Structure-wise, this module represents two different modules, roughly connected by a mini-hex-crawl overland map, though the PCs will follow a specific trail, so no hexcrawling is really required – the wilderness behaves more like a point-crawl. Speaking of which: We do get notes on random encounters for the wilderness area, focusing on vermin, with a bit of undead thrown in; the wilderness area also features a selection of a few scripted encounters the PCs are going to happen upon.

Okay, there is one more thing you should know about this module: There is one problematic bottleneck herein, and it may well break the module for you and yours. Big plus: The attention to detail is surprising: Even old statues that are truly unwieldy note weight and potential GP-value when dragged out of the desert – really cool.

All righty, this is as far as I can go without serious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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Only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs have been hired by Sultan Mehmet, a disgusting, misfigured man, to retrieve his fifth wife, Syriana, who has just been kidnapped by dervishes, a desert-dwelling tribe long in conflict with the sultan and his men. Thus, lancers guide the PCs to the desert, where they happen upon the carnage of the desert ambush – and provided they can get rid of the hostile vultures, they’ll be able to track Syrianas captors through the dunes.

Living through a sandstorm while tracking the dervishes, the PCs will also happen upon zombies, littered with scorpions, as they find the remains of the dervish party. These undead are modified to quickly heal, and smart PCs will notice that the scorpions, symbol of death, are the reason for the unnatural toughness of the shambling corpses – this is actually foreshadowing! Following Syriana’s last captor towards the mountains, the PCs can track the last dervish, the only one to survive the rigors so far, to the first dungeon. They’ll see him right away – in a pool of blood.

This is, once more, a clever means for smart players to be warned of danger afoot: The dervish has escaped to an abandoned dwarf complex, and dwarves are not exactly welcoming – so approaching the doors, we have a nasty knock-out gas trap; smart PCs will be warned and may pass through the semi-open outer doors and disable the gas. Even if the PCs fall here, the gas is non-lethal…and after the PCs have dealt with this hazard, they’ll notice that the dervish has fallen to the gas, then had his throat cut.

Looks like Syriana is no mere damsel in distress – unfortunately, this means that her trail leads into the depths of this desolate complex. The harsh welcome does provide a good example for indirect storytelling: The dwarves were adherents of a duergar-like, nasty God, one of toil and xenophobia; thus, their defenses, including the only slowly-opening doors with the gas-trap, rendered the complex a tomb when they were attacked from below. You see, a cadre of nasty derro annihilated the dwarven inhabitants of the complex, but they also met a grisly end: One magic-user among their ranks crossed dire rats and nasty dogs into a new, rapidly-spreading breed, the vermin dogs. These critters, aforementioned new monster, have spread, and slaughtered the derro – all but the mad mastermind that created them, who continues to labor in these darkened halls, half master, half prisoner of his creations.

This being may be found pretty quickly…or ignored altogether; a clockwork spider, dilapidated mining equipment and engines, all speaks of the tragedies, and the remains of the chief still hold the map to the wealth of dwarves – a nice way to seed the next adventure for the GM…and if in doubt, you can just have the map destroyed. Ultimately, the PCs will find the rather frightened Syriana. However, why would the PCs care about the story? Well, the adventure combines direct and indirect storytelling in an excellent and rewarding manner – The PCs can actually find out all of this via a ghost they can liberate and the things found throughout the complex.

Now, escorting the lady from the complex, we come to the one point that may sink the module for many groups: When stepping outside, the vizier of the Sultan awaits, alongside a massive force of soldiers: he tells the PCs to drop their weapons, throws their equipment into a fire-beetle pit and takes Syriana along. The Pcs are bound to stakes in the sand, left to die. Fighting, which many groups will want to, is a death verdict here – the forces arrayed against them are too strong, and the PCs are basically railroaded into giving up Syriana.

You see, unbeknown to the PCs, the Sultan’s haruspexes found out that she was the last member of a bloodline associated with a lesser known godling, Setenpre, associated with scorpions – her blood may be used to activate the eponymous Sarcophagus Legion, a potent undead legion. Via their own strength, or by some helpful dervishes, the PCs are free once more and then follow the trail of the vizier – thankfully, not all the force has accompanied the vizier – only his elite lizardmen janissaries.

Thus, the PCs get to explore the ruined temple of Setenpre, and they get the chance to save Syriana from the vizier’s blade, on a platform overlooking the dormant legion of the dead…but there is more in the complex, should the PCs choose to explore this complex. The indirect and direct storytelling employed within similarly manages to convey the complex’s story. There are unique hazards and adversaries to be found, and once more, the atmosphere is surprisingly concise and pitch-perfect.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, we have the usual formatting convention-deviations, though these are concisely implemented. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with solid b/w-artworks and functional b/w-maps. The maps do not come with a player-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew Hind’s second module is something that will prove to be divisive. The transition from the first to the second dungeon is a bad railroad, from a design perspective. It’s not an elegant way to write the module and takes player agenda away – from a structural perspective, this alone, with the lack of player-friendly maps, etc. should knock this down to 3.5 stars.

I’m not going to do that. Know why? Because here, this may not be oversight, but conscious design decision. And I think I can prove that.

You know, this module is not simply a Sword & Sorcery yarn. It is a loveletter to the genre that gets it. From the darkened and degenerate first former inhabitants of the first dungeon to every single story-beat, from the subtle foreshadowing to the enemy choices, this PERFECTLY hit the nail on the head.

…okay, so I have to note something here: My childhood hero’s Conan. When I got to the US, I scoured the comic book stores for the “Savage Sword of Conan” b/w-books, as they’re prohibitively expensive in Europe. This module is, in a way, like a PERFECT “Savage Sword of Conan” story to play yourself. The module gets the tropes perfectly right without being derivative. It won’t win an originality award, but it’s nigh perfect in what it seeks to accomplish…and this, alas, does include the potential deal-breaker railroad in the middle.

In short: If your players and PCs can appreciate the like, then get this asap – this is an excellent little module, and for me, as a private person, this is a 5 star + seal of approval gem. It hits the themes and style I adore perfectly. However, as a reviewer, I have to take this structural issue into account, and same goes for the lack of player-friendly maps – as such, I unfortunately can’t rate this higher than 4 stars, but this still gets my seal of approval. If you enjoy Sword and Sorcery as a genre, get this!

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.

As always with this series, we use OSRIC-rules as the default old-school system, with minor formal deviations from standard formatting, encompassing bolded spells and magic items, for example. The supplemental material includes a properly codified hand of glory magic item, and the pdf comes with 4 different, rival adventure groups that can be inserted as wild-cards into the game, particularly if the PCs have too easy a time. These groups are presented with basic stats noting magic items and spells, but no detailed write-ups of individual equipment. The module features three new monsters: A gargoyle variant that can, in groups, cause maddening winds that prevent actions of those affected; there would downy, small flying mammals with bat-like wings, poison and the ability to strangle targets on excellent hits. Finally, there would be the faceless ones, whom I will discuss below. Cartography is b/w, does its job, and the module sports 7 maps. Player-friendly maps, alas, are not included.

The following discussion contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, this adventure is a sandbox of sorts – a unique one! The number of competing groups noted before can also be determined randomly by the GM, and arrival sequence is similarly a kind of aspect that can be simulated with the help of the adventure. The adventure is intended for a well-rounded group of levels 6 – 10, though it should be noted that “winning” the adventure is probably left up to the higher levels. 12 rumors surrounding the chasm are provided for your convenience. The eponymous chasm is a “wandering” canyon of sorts – it magically pops up once every 37 years, for exactly 108 hours, before it vanishes once more. Its depths hold wonders, lost adventurers and stranger things – and as per the angle, the GM can easily integrate the module into pretty much any surrounding area. The predictability of the phenomenon also means that the “rush” for the chasm is very much justified. You could, in theory, even postulate a kind of chasm-micro-economy.

As you can determine from this unique set-up, the harsh and hard time limit of the chasm’s appearance and subsequent disappearance means that the PCs will have to hustle throughout the adventure. This, more so than anything, may be a limiting factor for the PCs exploring the chasm – in order to brave the trip, the PCs will have to conserve their resources, and there are two complexes, including the final one, which are linked caverns. The last one contains the potent secret at the heart of the strange behavior of the chasm – one that only PCs closer to the higher power-level will be capable of resolving.

As such, no two expeditions into the chasm will truly be alike: Lower level PCs will probably be exploring/looting, but not get to the bottom of the mystery; “Clearing” the location, though, will be an extremely difficult challenge. Anyhow, the chasm includes a total of 7 different mini-dungeons (as noted, caverns 5 and 6, and 7 and 8, are linked) spread out over three levels, and wandering monsters are provided for the dungeons. These range in themes: There is a cavern that contains orcs, one that houses svirfneblin (which may be allies of sorts); there is a cavern highlighting the aforementioned bogwings and one that houses deadly basilisks, petrified adventurers…and a frog that serves as a unique kind of oracle! Yeah, there is some nice weirdness herein, which never feels wrong or out of place, courtesy of the unique background of the chasm.

The faceless ones I mentioned before represent a healthy dose of weirdness, featuring the aforementioned variant gargoyles, with a birthing vat providing the respawning critters, and a weird mural can have unpleasant repercussions. There also would be the Gray Sultan, one of the fabled bosses here: A F12, Hp 90 monstrous bastard of a unique killer, whose attacks may instantly strangle targets…he can be one of the high-level bosses within: similarly, the entrapped godling within, Ar’Q-Ess, well-concealed, makes for one truly deadly final adversary – but to even get to the godling, the PCs will have to get past deadly demons and similarly potent foes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good, provided you get past the formatting deviations. On a prose level, the module sports unique and interesting, concisely-written prose. Layout adheres to a classic, two-column b/w-standard, including artworks. Down to the fonts employed, this is pretty classic. The cartography, as noted, is b/w and functional, though we do not get player-friendly maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

James C. Boney’s “Chasm of the Damned” is a delight in the premise and idea underlying the complex. There are quite a few clever components here – the unconventional oracle is delightful, and similarly, some of the adversaries rock. The blend of the weird and “normal” makes sense and the strange microcosm presented is cool. That being said, compared to previous adventures the author has penned, e.g. looting a statue that may animate is basically a guessing game – no chance regarding magic or the like to discern a means to bypass the animation.

This could be taken as symptomatic for the whole adventure: While the location and narrative angle are absolutely inspired, while the ideas featured for the respective mini-dungeons contained in the chasms are intriguing, the module does suffer from its page-count and brevity – in a way, the adventure is too ambitious for the scant few pages available. The chasm connecting the mini-dungeons, interactions between the locales, remain afterthoughts and somewhat sketch-like. The potential interaction between groups, the potential, unique economy of the chasm, could have provided a thoroughly distinct, fun environment – one that the adventure, per se, does not manage to realize fully.

Don’t get me wrong. This module is still a very fun and distinct adventure that has plenty of replay-value; suffice to say, the module can be scavenged easily – you could hack this apart without any problems. At the same time, this could have been a true masterpiece with a couple more pages to develop the ideas. I found myself wishing that we’d got more weirdness for e.g. the Iron Sultan’s complex, for the faceless ones, etc. – the compressed nature of the presentation of these dungeon-vignettes acts as a major downside regarding the level of detail and imaginative depths the author can provide. In short: “Chasm of the Damned” is a good module; depending on what you’re looking for, a very good module, even; but it did have the chance to be something special and doesn’t realize this chance. I found myself wishing that this had received the page-count of the atrocious “Prison of Menptah” instead – with 32 pages, this could have been a masterpiece.

Oh well, as provided, this is certainly worth getting. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 14 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This module is intended to be used in conjunction with the OSRIC-rules, though, as always, modification for other old-school games is pretty simple; similarly, conversion to more rules-heavy systems is very much possible. The adventure is intended for 6 – 8 characters level 3 – 5, though third level PCs may face some casualties – this is not an easy adventure.

As usual for the series, we do have some deviations from the formatting conventions, with magic items bolded. Oddly, the item among the 5 magic items that is most crucial has its reference in the adventure text not bolded – instead of referring to the item by proper name, it is noted as by its reputation, with a longer description that lacks the tell-tale bolded formatting. Cartography featured is functional and b/w, though no player-friendly versions/VTT-versions are provided. The module includes 4 distinct creatures, all of which are unique and flavorful – I will note these in the discussion of the content itself.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving deep into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, this module begins when the PCs are hired to investigate troubling occurrences: The Lord Admiral of Ranste, a thriving trade port, has vanished, and the streets are lined with the eponymous footsteps, all aflame, tell-tale trademarks of the long vanquished, legendary pirate Firebeard. The PCs are tasked to travel to the hex-mapped Isle of Jilanth, where the pirate once dwelled, and find out whether he has risen from the grave – and find the Lord Admiral, if possible.

The wilderness exploration of the island, just fyi, comes with a pretty nice wandering encounter table, which focuses on animals and vermin, including a one-horned variant of a Triceratops and three unique, scripted events, which feature undead crocodiles, carnivorous apes, and a site where human explorers once committed an act of genocide versus the lizardfolk natives. Yes, this section already is pretty damn cool.

Here is a structural peculiarity of this module: In a way, the adventure could be solved in a variety of ways and encompasses three different locations, which could all stand on their own. Their sequence, similarly, is not necessarily set in stone. At the same time, running the locales in the default order makes sense, as the dungeons connect and transition in a sensible manner.

The first of these locations would be the caves that once were inhabited by the pirates: Here, threats from crocodiles to piranhas await, and PCs can well fall prey to the rather challenges environments. A survivor of another adventurer party may be saved (potential replacement PC, the first such NPC encountered – remains of further members, barely alive or dead, can be found throughout the adventure), and beyond giant spiders, the suddenness of the pirates being killed still suffuses the place: From the creepy cellblock (with a nasty trap and some really creepy imagery) to the puzzle fight against the rope horror, one of the new critters and a thing of deadly…ropes, the complex rocks. Heck, the PCs may end up facing off versus a mummy voodoo witch! Amazing!

From there, a tunnel leads deeper into the mountain, and the second location beckons – an ancient gnomish enclave, where the inhabitants inadvertently unearthed something that deformed their children, making the gnomes slowly degenerate into cannibalistic madness – now, just a rubbery, disgusting hold creeper preys on explorers through these silent, deadly halls. And yes, PCs can actually research what happened here. The funeral rites of the lost culture allows greedy PCs to float a boat on the hold’s “river of the dead” to the tombs, potentially getting rich loot – provided, they survive the nasty countermeasures, that is!

Following the river upstream will lead the PCs to the abode of Jilanth’s wizard, Lazio Sharpe – coming through the subterranean, aquatic backdoor, the PCs thus can bypass the “wyvern” at the gates and deal with the seemingly mad wizard…though they will notice something odd: The wizard seems to have been replaced by a wax doppelgänger of himself, one that has managed to exile his master – once more, the PCs can actually find out about this if they do their job. Dealing with the doppelgänger of the wizard still does not solve the mystery of the culprit of the footsteps though: Clever PCs may note that the wax creatures have exiled their master, and thus explore the jungle – and indeed, Lazio has been captured by the local lizardfolk, who are in the process of making him a ritual feast! Unfortunate here: The lizardfolk encampment lacks a map, making the climax of the module somewhat weaker than it should be. Still, the wizard can reward the PCs,s hould they save him, and the mystery of the boots and flaming footsteps is resolved…but where is the Admiral? That’s for the GM to decide!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a classic two-column b/w-standard with a few nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is functional, but lacks player-friendly versions and the final locale is not mapped.

Andrew Hind’s “Flaming Footsteps of Jilanth” is the best of the early Advanced Adventures. Each of the three small dungeons has a strong, evocative leitmotif; story matters and PCs that explore thoroughly are rewarded with the means to understand what’s happening. Risk and reward are well balanced, with the deadlier, optional components also providing better loot. In structure and atmosphere, this is excellent through and through, though the absence of a map for the final locale, and the lack of player-friendly maps do slightly mar what would otherwise be a thoroughly excellent adventure.

This is still very much worth getting and comes recommended by yours truly: My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

1/5

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front- and back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure is intended for characters level 8 – 10, 4 – 7, to be precise. Well…I honestly think that twice that number may be more realistic, with a well-diversified group being of tantamount importance. Sans at least one character in the core 4 classes, this is essentially unbeatable.

So, an order of planes-exploring wizards has mounted an assault into basically a region of Hell that behaves akin to a pocket-plane. We’re talking about a desert here, just fyi. Okay, first thing: We’re talking about an order that can field excursions into Hell. This requires, for many settings, an introduction of such a powerful force, which is not exactly nice. That being said, the planar-angle, which otherwise doesn’t really come into play, serves as a justification for the extensive, elaborate background story: Basically, the good god Meneptah (stats included) led his civilization into battle against an evil civilization, resultin in his capture, and in the aftermath, destruction of his captors. How is this relevant to the plot? Well, it’s not. It’s a needlessly elaborate backgroundstory that makes adding the adventure sans the planar angle problematic. So, story-wise, you’re left with a) the option to introduce a super-powerful magic-user order, or b) introduce not one, but two fallen civilizations. Both are needlessly tough on a GM’s lore regarding the world and both ultimately have no bearing whatsoever on the plot. This verbose and extremely detailed amount of backstory is perhaps the one thing that you can consider to be a strength regarding the module, but ultimately, it is NEVER relevant for the PCs and cannot be unearthed

Oh, I wished that this was the main issue. I am “spoiling” the module in this review, and I won’t even bother with the usual warning apart from this, as the module does not warrant it.

Anyways, know how one of the things that make OSR-modules often stand out, is that the authors can focus on lore, creating cool scenarios, and less on stats? Because OSR.mechanics are so simple? Well, the pdf is sloppy in that regard, referencing weapons not featured in OSRIC’s tome.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The PCs basically enter the region, and begin with an overland exploration. There are some nomads (camp not mapped), some wilderness encounters and travel times noted; among the random encounters, we focus on desert monsters. Motivations for the encounters are pretty simplistic, but solid. From here, we move to the ruined capital of the evil Muhatian nation that imprisoned Menptah. The city’s ruins are not mapped, and enemy encounters are undead. Vanilla, bland undead. No unique abilities. Odd: The palace of the king is several hexes away from his capital, and mapped as an 8-keyed encounter region. That’s fully of the same, generic undead. It is also here that a nasty trap can be found – magical foodstuff that actually strengthens evil treants nearby. If the PCs are smart…that doesn’t matter. 20th level non-detection masks the alignment of effects and the illusion featured here. This kind of screw-job, alas, is a leitmotif throughout the adventure.

This becomes more evident in the Tomb of Zoser, which is a straight and linear dungeon exploration. (As in: Super-linear: 15 keyed locations, pretty much in a straight line.) Here, the elemental princes f ice and magma are imprisoned, sitting on their thrones, waiting for the PCs to stumble in. No, I am not kidding you. There is also an airship here that must be used to navigate basically to the end of the complex – no bypassing possible, with a combined Strength of 112 required to open a door otherwise. Indeed, this module is dickish. As in: Beyond “Tomb of Annihilation”-levels dickish. As in “What were they thinking???”-levels. Need an example? The gates to the tomb are poisoned – touching them nets you a save-or-die. And know what’s “fun” – it’s contact poison that ignores wearing gloves. Why? Because the author said so. It’s just not fair. I don’t object to save or die, but it should be earned, the result of the player’s actions. This is just dastardly, random, bad fiat.

Basically, you’ll note pretty soon that there are a couple of things that the module does:

You play this module EXACTLY how the author intended, or not at all. Alternate problem-solutions are not taken into account and actively discouraged. Creativity is punished.
Constant “A Wizard Did It”-syndrome – I mean it. All the time. There is no rhyme or reason or theme to anything. The author tries to paint over this with lore. It doesn’t work.
Overabundance of undead and ghosts. Guess what happens at the end of the little dungeon? Bingo!
Punishment of exploration. The dickish nature of the dungeons and scenario as a whole penalizes the PCs for exploring, when their mission is to do just that.
You murder-hobo EVERYTHING. You can’t skip/bypass encounters. Kill, kill, kill.

These are but the first issues. The next, similarly optional dungeon, is a 6-keyed locales temple may be the highlight of the module, with demon lord shrines and a lamia + demon-lover making for something unique…but again, no chance for the PCs to truly learn their extensive background story. The hackfest continues.

And then, we get to the prison, which MAKES NO SENSE whatsoever. The prison is NOT designed in any way to keep a deity imprisoned; it is crafted as a “test of worthiness” for the PCs, which makes NO SENSE, even if you buy into the backstory. The main-dungeon of the module, the one non-optional locale, is just DUMB. There is a sequence of rooms that is crafted to challenge the respective member of the 4 core classes. One for magic-users, one for fighters, one for thieves and one for clerics. There is also a fifth sequence of rooms that requires so-called puzzles to solve; depending on the equipment your PCs carry, they may not be able to pass here. Don’t have a bolt that you can bless? First room can be a dead end. And yes, ALL of these paths must be explored to enter the final room and free Meneptah. This dungeon is utterly ATROCIOUS and represents a great callback to everything that sucked about old-school adventures. If you need your nostalgia-goggles taken off, look no further.

All right, so first of all, know how PCs at this level have divinations? And how good modules incorporate their required use into their challenged? Well, none of them work in the complex. Why? No idea. Furthermore, teleportation, bypassing of rooms, etc. is strictly prohibited…for the players. The beings in the complex, the monsters etc. can use them wily-nily, which once more reeks of GM-fiat. Speaking of which: A room with a wall to scale…prevents flying. At this level. Why? Because the author wills it so. There is NO means to reward tactics. Smart players are stumped by doors locking, combat ensuing – attempts to prevent the like are met with the equivalent of a bad PC game forcing your wizard to open the door and stare right down into the minigun. This is scripted and strips the PCs of any meaningful agenda. Let’s return to our list and add:

Nerfing of earned Player character-capabilities to ensure that the module is played “the right way”, i.e. as the author wishes it to be played.
Fiat and inconsistency regarding monster-capabilities – the PCs should have, at the very least, some way to unlock their powers.
Living creatures placed sans rhyme or reason, waiting for the PCs.
Constant sabotage of any player-agenda and clever use of PC-resources.

Wanna know what’s also pretty much the epitome of “fun”? A mirror of opposition at the end of the respective challenges that duplicates the respective class and has a chance to petrify EVERYONE else. This type of save or suck repeats for ALL of them. Also lulzy: There is a lever of an obscure puzzle that penalizes PCs that get it wrong (we get Myst-levels of hints) with no less than THREE different save or die/petrify-beams. Sounds like fun already? No? Surprise. If by some sort of masochistic drudgery, your players manage to get to the end, we’ll have a boring 2 demon-final boss fight that, after this complex, is all but guaranteed to wipe out remaining PCs – a balor and a nalfeshnee. At this level. After a dungeon of non-skippable save-or-die crap. This leads me to the final point to be added to the list:

Generic, bland enemy-selection, from start to finish. If it’s not generic, it makes no sense.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are pretty good, though the deviation from OSRIC’s formatting style somewhat galls; on a rules-language level, the pdf manages to get rules-aspects wrong, in spite of the system’s simplicity. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with a couple of b/w-artworks that range from solid to okay. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-cartography is functional, but lacks player-friendly versions.

Alphonso Warden’s “Prison of Meneptah” has no redeeming qualities as far as I’m concerned. I try hard to see the positive in any supplement or module I review, but here, I got NOTHING.

This module is HORRIBLY designed and commits pretty much all cardinal sins you can imagine. It is a needlessly cruel and linear, nonsensical meatgrinder that punishes players for not thinking like the author. It’s less like playing a pen and paper RPG, and more like playing a horrible, badly-designed RPG on your PC or console. You know the type. The game that forces your wizard main character to open the door to the obvious death trap, because he’s the main character. That breaks its own rules for monsters and NPCs. The game that you can only win by making copious use of Quick Save/Load. This module is the pen and paper equivalent of such a game.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like tough as nails killer adventures and meatgrinders. But they need to be fair. LotFP has a couple of super-deadly modules I absolutely adore; and even in them, save-or-die must usually be earned and is the consequence of player-actions. This book hobbles and nerf PCs and then punishes them, constantly, for not playing by rules that the players and characters CAN’T KNOW. I ADORE puzzle-dungeons, and the final dungeon herein is pretty much a perfect example why they have a bad reputation – the challenges make no true sense and don’t fit into a prison. They are arbitrary and sloppily designed.

From the fluff that is needlessly hard on the GM regarding integration, to the lame enemies, linearity and mind-boggling blandness of the encounters faced – there simply is NOTHING to salvage here. I wouldn’t GM or play this adventure if you paid me for it. This has not seen contact with any semblance of reality at the table, and feels like a novelist’s attempt to write an adventure sans any understanding of how adventures actually work in practice. This lacks any semblance of foresight and, once you take away the lore, which has no impact on anything within and can’t be unearthed either, you’re left with the module that is pretty much the epitome of every single design-sin from the days of yore. There isn’t even nostalgia to be had here, courtesy of the super-generic and arbitrary challenges posed. This is not even “so bad it’s funny”-bad; it is just abysmal in every single way I can conceive.

This module has the dubious honor of being the single worst adventure I have read in the last 5 years. 1 star. Steer clear.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This adventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front and back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons to be undertaken at my leisure.

Now, it should be noted that this, like all modules in the series, manages to cram a significant amount of material into its pages, providing a rather impressive amount of text into the pages. The adventure features a new hazard-concept as well as three new monsters; however, with the exception of one of them, they tie in with the story, and thus will be covered in the SPOILER-section.

As before, the series employs the OSRIC-rules and is easily adaptable to other OSR-games (and more current ones). Formatting-wise, it should be noted that spells and magic items have been bolded, and the same goes for monster names and major negative conditions mentioned in the text. This deviation from formatting standards is not exactly something the OCD-guy in me likes, but they’re consistent, so yeah – I can live with that aspect.

The adventure is intended for 4 – 6 characters level 6 – 10, though it should be noted that a good mixture of character classes is very much recommended. This is a difficult module, though one that thankfully derives its difficulty mainly from player-skill as well as referee-prowess.

In order to discuss this, though, I need to go deep into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only referees around? Great!

So, the eponymous witch-head is an indestructible artifact of pure evil and malevolence – but thankfully, it has been sealed away in a complex dedicated to goodness. But, alas, as is the way of the world, the hero who sealed away the witch-head’s bloodline did not strengthen. Instead, the current duke, Ymis, has to contend with a distant cousin named Dalan, who seeks to abduct his cousin Derica to solidify his claim on the title and overthrow Ymis. While he has managed to secure the dread witch-head, he can’t penetrate the warded estate. This is where the adventurers come in.

Basically, the PCs enter a complex designed by the forces of good, which has been overtaken by evil adventurers, with the darkness of the artifact slowly seeping into the designs of the dungeon. This makes the dungeon complex feel really, really unique: In a shrine, the PCs can watch the oscillation of forces of good and evil vie for dominion, with potent buffs and debuffs. The good nature of the complex also is reflected in rooms of purpose – potentially super-deadly trap-rooms that don’t kill smart PCs, courtesy of the good guys obviously including safety measures. These rooms of purpose reward smart PCs and represent one of my favorite aspects herein – the module emphasizes player skill over PC skill with many of the decisions, and smart players will soon realize that separating the actions of the evil pretender’s posse from the architecture of the complex itself will yield them a big advantage.

Speaking of which, the outlaws that accompany Dalan are actually 6 fully statted, proper NPCs, with spells prepared noted if applicable. They also have their very own motivations and dynamics and can, in the hands of a capable referee, make for a formidable dynamic encounter to complicate the exploration of the complex. One of the new monsters deserves special mention: The rancid is an otyugh-like, wicked thing that can cause long-time barfing (and thus lock down a careless group fast); it can also cause a really quick wasting disease, which inflicts 2d10 damage per hour…and needs a 14th level caster to cure. There are not many of these things in the dungeon, thankfully, but contracting the disease is pretty much a death sentence for the level. Not a big fan there. The second creature herein would be another somewhat dynamic encounter – a specialized golem that knows the secret doors of the place and looks like a multi-armed minotaur stalks the halls, adding a further complication to the proceedings. My favorite creature here, though, would be the prism ward – basically a pretty harmless, floating crystal that reflects light as super-deadly blasts, acting light a living light amplifier. One of my favorite traps herein is a wand of illumination, wedged in the wall, with a magic mouth (not formatted properly) appearing and speaking the trigger word, aiming at the creature. It’s clever and deadly.

So, beyond aforementioned, dynamic aspects, we have an uncommon kind of bottleneck, namely an underground lake that needs to be crossed. Careless players will bite off more than they can chew here – if the journey is not handled smartly, they may well fall. There’s a reason for this. Dalan has already been corrupted and all but consumed by the Witch-Head. While he has the potent staff of screams that may stun and deafen the PCs for a while, he also has a grand total of whopping 15 hit points, which means he can be pretty much one-shot-killed by a lucky PC. This pitiful, lone boss, separated from his formidable posse, is intentional, for the true climax here would pertain interacting with the artifact and not succumbing to its malevolent power. In a way, Dalan and his evil group are warnings to the prospective bearers of this horrid artifact. And yes, we get tight rules for its use. It demands a steep price indeed…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to the no-frills, classic 2-.column b/w-standard of the series and the pdf sports some nice, original b/w-artworks. The cartography of the complex is functional, if not impressive, and unfortunately sports no key-less player-friendly version for VTTs or printing out and cutting up. On the plus-side, the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Sometimes, less is more. James C. Boney’s second Advanced Adventure only covers a single dungeon level, as opposed to the Red Mausoleum’s three, but takes it time to properly develop the complex and its inhabitants. The different forces at work in the complex lend it a unique atmosphere, and the inclusion of basically a hostile adventurer group adds some serious spice to the proceedings. I also loved the intentionally anticlimactic BBEG, as this is something that many an author would have shirked away from. That being said, the relative brevity of the module does show a bit. Having a full patrol schedule/AI-like action/response-sequence for the hostile NPCs would have been the icing on the cake.

Still, all things considered, this represents a fun and flavorful dungeon with some creative hazards and challenges. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

This module clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front and back cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 14 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, who graciously bought the module and told me to finish it at my convenience.

Now, this is the second of the Advanced Adventures-modules released by Expeditious Retreat Press, and as such, it is not the latest offering of the author – James C. Boney moved on to create other adventures, which will be covered in due time. As with the first module and all in the series, the default rules system employed herein would be OSRIC. Also, like the first module, this chooses to deviate from formatting conventions, bolding magic items and spells, for example.This is not employed with 100% consistency, though.

The module introduces a new material, a kind of magical fabric that is as tough as metal, and it features three creatures: The illustrated Gehzin are basically telekinesis-using extraplanar frog folks with nasty diseases; harbingers are slain fallen paladins that have not atoned for their sins, revived by the forces of the abyss, and finally, shadowcaps are more of a hazard than a creature – the shrooms are my favorite critter here, as their spores render your incorporeal! Yeah, damn cool and something I’ll be using in games, regardless of system.

All right, this being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! The premise of this adventure is rather simple: There have been undead excursions coming from the swamp and the PCs are sent in to fix this issue. After a trek through 15 miles of non-mapped swampland, the PCs arrive at the eponymous red mausoleum, ostensibly the source of the living dead roaming the land. The brief wilderness trek does come with a random encounter table, which is appreciated and feels “right”, in that it does not clutter the desolation of the swamp with humanoids, instead focusing on animals and vermin...including brain moles! This is smart, for it makes for a sharper contrast when the PCs actually find the complex.

They’ll notice that they’re in the right vicinity by redness oozing from the stones, coloring everything, which makes for some really neat visuals.

Now, the mausoleum was erected by a long gone civilization obsessed with blood and unlife, and as such, is not a nice place. A big plus here would be that the module doesn’t waste x pages depicting this civilization, instead opting for an indirect narration; the PCs get to piece together some aspects of how this society worked as they explore the complex. Provided they even get in.

You see, this very much is a module that not only is written for high level PCs, it also assumes appropriate player-capabilities, all without the GM having to constantly improvise. The complex does not hobble the PCs by artificially limiting their options, which is a huge plus. In fact, the module assumes that PCs and players have amassed a degree of competence during their adventures. So, if by any chance you managed to reach these lofty levels by just murder-hobo-ing your way through everything, you’ll suffer. What do I mean by this? Well, one of the best aspects of this adventure would be that, from the antechamber of the dungeon to a lot of bottlenecks of sorts, you’ll need to deal with puzzles. Not in the annoying way, mind you. The mausoleum has an array of defenses and these are often tied to obscure command words etc. – in short, you’ll finally get some use out of those divination spells. The module assumes that you’re using the like, and while there are ways for PCs to brute force these instances, we ultimately have a module here that asks the PCs to use their considerable resources. That’s a good thing and something high level modules often get wrong.

Better yet, the GM actually gets the command words spelled out, which may be a small thing, but it adds to the sense of the immersion when the players have to recite the pass phrase. The demands on well-rounded groups are also mirrored in the way in which dungeon progress is made: You see, the connections between levels are magical and require the understanding and use of some remnants of these days gone by; not true understanding, mind you, but rather a general concept – this is an altar, with this and that move, we can bypass it…

As a whole, this creates an interesting overall feeling that manages to evoke the sense of properly delving into an old complex. Anyways, these magical connections…they actually don’t last that long. If the PCs dawdle, they may well find themselves caught in the complex, forced to delve deeper. And yes, smart groups will have means to offset that, but I still considered it to be smart from a design-perspective.

Now, as far as random encounters go, the dungeon is very much a themed dungeon, in that the PCs will fight undead, undead, and, for a change, undead. In hordes. This is reflected both in the bosses and in the random encounters, which are btw. replenished pretty quickly…and there’s a reason for that built into the module as well, which is a big plus for me. The living dead don’t just pop up, after all. Anyways, the most remarkable non-undead encounter on the 3 dungeon levels that this adventure encompasses would be a tomb of honored knights, which, in a somewhat random move, houses a ton of creatures in stasis, which are consequently released in waves once the grave-robbers…her, I mean “adventurers” venture into the area. I am not a fan of the lay of stasis angle and the critters actually may end up fighting each other, which can make this a nice free-for-all. That being said, I wasn’t too keen on this encounter, as opposed to the exploration of the complex and the implicitly conveyed lore of the place. Which may also be a reason why I wasn’t too blown away by the presence of crypt things. The creature always seemed gimmicky to me and I have very rarely seen it used well. (TPK Games’ Caragthax the Reaver would be such an example.) Anyhow, these criticisms notwithstanding, the first dungeon level can be considered to be a success – it is flavorful and challenging.

Level 2, alas, is a slog/labyrinth. Level 2 is basically winding, claustrophobic catacombs with some spaces, where blocks react to the presence of good alignment creatures passing, sliding in place. Much to my surprise and in some form of minor inconsistency, the architects of the complex don’t use this feature to the full extent, imprisoning PCs etc. – instead of deadly, it just ends up as disorienting, which is probably the intent. The level is also crawling with undead and has precious few keyed encounters. It is, in essence, a level that exists solely as a war of attrition on PC-resources, which, per se, is a smart move for high level games. However, I really wished it had more going on. After the atmospheric first level, this one felt a bit more generic.

Level 3, then, would be the heart of the complex and a flooded passage may actually allow for escape, should the PCs find themselves in over their head. It is also here that we have the module’s most devious trap, which includes demons and a pocket dimension in a false crypt. And yes, potential for eternal imprisonment included. Combat-wise, this does sport the most memorable fight in the adventure: There is a ritualistic area, where a massive mandala on a raised pedestal channels negative energy, summoning hordes of the living dead to crawl from a pit, with a metal dome to keep its powers in check currently raised atop it. Lowering the dome can make the constant stream abate. This is very cool, and while harbingers and Gatheris, a level 21 cleric/level 19 magic-user lich have their abodes in the vicinity, I found myself wondering why they don’t join the fray here – it’d make more sense and be more climactic. Also, RAW, the lich may come with a buff-suite of sorts, but still deigns to fight the PCs more or less on his own, which, even in the lesser power-levels of OSR-gameplay, tends to be a bad idea for high level casters. Reliance on summoned aid doesn’t help as much and a caster in melee with a good fighter can be a pretty bad idea. Then again, perhaps this was intended, as resting in the complex is tough and the 2nd level’s war of attrition on the PCs can really drain their resources. Still, I think combat in the mandala-room would have been more remarkable and interesting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no glaring issues. Layout adheres to an elegant, old-school two-column b/w-standard. The pdf sports a few solid pieces of b/w-artworks and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The complex comes with okay b/w-maps, but no player-friendly version is included, which constitutes a comfort detriment for GMs like yours truly who hate drawing maps and enjoy handing out cut-up map-segments to the PCs.

James C. Boney’s “The Red Mausoleum” does a lot right. It is obvious that the author knows the capabilities of high-level PCs first-hand and has experience handling such groups, which is a huge plus: The design of the complex doesn’t just nerf or hobble them, instead working WITH the vast options the PCs have. That is good indeed. From the antechamber throughout most of level 1, I was pretty hooked: The stark visuals of the red complex and the clever “archaeology” of sorts that is needed to progress managed to elicit a sense of wonder that I enjoyed very much. Alas, after level 1, the complex feels like the lack of wordcount left for the subsequent levels necessitated a less interesting take on the remainder of the mausoleum. A good GM can make level 2 feel really claustrophobic and dangerous and level 3’s mandala-room is amazing, but in contrast to how the first level felt, they are less of a unique complex, and feel more like a standard evil-necro-lair type of complex.

The unique tidbits take a back-seat to defeating undead, undead…and then, even more undead. I don’t object to that necessarily, but it is evident in the writing of level 1 and in the glimmers where these become more unique, that they could have been more. I really enjoyed how this module started, but not so much how it progresses. That being said, design-wise, the subsequent levels aren’t bad and work in the context of the complex, they just aren’t as remarkable. I do NOT want the civilization explained, mind you; but some effects for the seeping red, some global tricks, perhaps blood locks or the like…the visuals and theme of the complex imho deserved more in the lower levels. This has the makings of something remarkable, and then settles for a solid, if conservative complex. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. If you’re willing to tinker with the complex a bit, you’ll certainly find some cool ways to expand it.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

The first of the Advanced Adventures-modules clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front- and back cover, 1 page editorial ½ a page SRD, leaving us with 14.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look.

This review was requested and provided as a prioritized review by one of my patreons.

All right, quick history lessons – this is, to my knowledge at least, may well be the first ever commercially available OSRIC-module ever, which is a pretty huge deal that renders this a sort of almost historical relic of sorts for fans of OSR-style gaming. Now, the trade-dress evoked by the module obviously hearkens back to feelings of nostalgia, and indeed, structurally, this very much is in line with what you’d expect from a classic module – from the font to the lack of read-aloud text, to the aesthetics, the adventure manages to evoke the same sort of feeling, which is a good thing per se for the target demographic.

Now, I like playing advocatus diaboli, and indeed, there are things to complain about regarding the otherwise very concise aesthetics: If you truly want the classic experience, you may be galled by the absence of blueprint style maps in the interior of the covers – personally, I don’t mind. However, in the adherence to the classic formula and trade-dress aesthetics, the module also kinda ignores some industry standards – personally, I would have loved to see e.g. player-friendly maps or VTT-capable ones. There are plusses, though – the interior artwork, also penned by the author, has a distinct style I very much enjoyed. More importantly for me at least was a pet-peeve of mine – formatting is inconsistent. Magic items and spells are sometimes italicized as per the OSRIC standard, and sometimes bolded, with no discernible rhyme or reason. Now, to be fair, they are always highlighted in some way, which helps navigate and run the adventure, but the inconsistencies still galled me.

Now, on a more positive side, the pdf sports a total of 5 new monsters – vampiric moss would be pretty self-explanatory; the deadly funghemoth can be seen, or so I assume, on the back cover; the pod-men and the eponymous shroom (think evil wizard shroom-people) can also be found…but my favorite critter herein would be the snagwort. These are ugly, ropy plants hanging from the ceiling that attach their tendrils to adventurers and seek to smash them into the walls until they’re a bloody pulp. They are more hazards than really combat-material, but here’s the fun part: Their glue persists for a while after death. And they’re heavy. Yes, chances are that one of two of your PCs will carry one of their carcasses around for a while.

Now, the module is designed for 6 -8 characters of levels 2 – 4, and I’d strongly suggest a good mix of character classes. While this is no meatgrinder as far as OSR-modules are concerned, it similarly is not easy.

All right, this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the first thing you need to know is that this actually has some replay value, at least for the GM. The module is designed so it can be tackled from two directions: Either from the ground/underworld, moving up (for example after the PC’s first dungeon collapsed/stranded them in the lightless depths), or, in a more classic manner, with the PCs exploring the depths, seeking to destroy the evil lurking down there. This two-directional approach is also mirrored in the dungeon-structure, for, whether you believe it or not, these few pages manage to contain 3 dungeon-levels. No, I am not kidding you.

Each of the levels sports a brief note on random encounter frequency is provided for each level, with the shroom’s lair, level 2, featuring a patrol as well. Now, what I liked about level 1 is that each encounter gets a little bit of agency – it’s just a word like “hunting”, “patrolling” etc., but it helps immensely in my part – alas, in a bit of inconsistency, this cool feature is not retained for level 2 and 3. Indeed, as a whole, the 1st and 2nd level are stronger than the third: In level three, we have basically abandoned laboratories and components of the shroom’s complex that have been left behind in the move towards the surface. Here, a map of the upper levels can be found (cue once more my complaint regarding player-friendly maps) and rogue pod men may be found; there is also quite a bit of delightful old-school weirdness and, as some may claim, sadism: There is a goblin shamaness who welcomes the PCs with open arms, thinking that a trapped ghast is her god. The aftermath of this encounter may well see the PCs meet the god of goblins. Similarly, there is a pool containing a sarcophagus: If the PCs dive down, they may trigger a squid-ink trap and find themselves in a black pool with a newly liberated undead. Fun times – and hey, no one said that graverobbing and adventuring would be wise professions to pick up.

That being said, the adventure as a whole does a really good job or balancing risk and reward for players: The module does not throw unfair situations at them and the risk incurred is always the result of their own actions or lack thereof – in short, this is not dickish, it’s fair in its difficulty. Still, compared to level 1 and 2, the third level lacks a distinct leitmotif and simply is less interesting.

You see, level 1, from the get-go, manages to grasp my interest: The means of egress into the cmplex has a sensible mechanism that allows smart PCs to use it, providing a bit of realism there – and subsequent incursions after retreats actually have consequences. The presence of a stream that runs through the complex as a sort of irrigation process further highlights this. The first two levels feel very much like organic, sensible set-pieces with strong leitmotifs: The first level sports, for example, maddened tree offspring of a captive treant that can be found at level 2; a giant leech-infested pool provides an alternate means to go further down. There is a bit of weirdness here, which is also encapsulated by weird and unique mosses growing in some caverns and the PCs can e.g. find fish mincers (and, in level 2, those for…bigger lifeforms…), which is used by the shroom to create the disgusting nutritional paste made to cultivate his growing army of pod-people. The first level manages to foreshadow concepts in the second level, providing weirdness, yes, but also hinting at the explanations – this indirect storytelling is really rewarding for the PCs and players alike.

Ultimately, the PCs will make their way to the prison (where they should be careful regarding what they do) and the main complex of the shroom – they’ll witness the pods and have a chance to put an end to the growing army and machinations of the hyper-intelligent fungoid threat – whose labs btw. contain detailed documents as well as a potion rack with no less than 20 potions, which contains, for example such gems as “liquid wood” or weird potions that make you run in circles and scream for a few turns.

The eponymous sinister shroom is no pushover, btw. – with potent pod-man bodyguards and quite a few spells and HD, he will definitely test the mettle of the PCs, particularly if they are at the lower end of the suggested level-spectrum. Have I mentioned the big bad funghemoth, which may actually be used to help clear the complex if the PCs are smart? Or the mushroom level-based portcullis traps? Yeah, I really, really loved level 1 and 2.

Conclusion:

Editing is top-notch on a formal and rules-language level; as far as formatting is concerned, the pdf does sport some inconsistencies. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard and I really liked the interior artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is serviceable, but not spectacular. The absence of player-friendly maps is a comfort detriment.

So yeah, blame Matthew Finch, the author of this adventure. You see, unlike many folks that are active in the OSR-scene, I loved my old-school gaming back in the day…but frankly, there was, and this is something plenty of folks forget, a lot of crap back then as well.

There was a reason so many folks stopped buying the old books.

Not all was shiny and better. (Go ahead and call for pitchforks…)

Hence, I wholeheartedly embraced Necromancer Games, and later, Frog God Games, in their mission of providing new old-school gaming materials. I confess to having never heard about Matthew Finch when I backed the Rappan Athuk kickstarter back in the day – and I got that elusive Cyclopean Deeps bonus level. I read it and was HOOKED. When the Cyclopean Deeps hardcovers finally hit sites, I drooled all over them – I still consider them to be absolute masterpieces, regardless of system.

So yeah, that did lead me to investigate the author, to this adventure – and I sat on it for quite a while. It was the first time I really started digging regarding OSR-books. So yeah, blame Matt Finch’s excellent writing.

When one of my patreons asked me to review this series, I figured I’d begin at the start, and there we are. So, how do the pod-caverns fare nowadays, when the blend of classic and weirdness has become accepted, cherished and its own style? Surprisingly well, actually. While the module does suffer from some comfort-detriments and formatting inconsistencies, we can see a style of writing here that cites the classics without being just a knockoff – this is creative and manages to evoke a sense of consistency that draws you in – more efficiently than many modules with thrice the page-count, mind you.

Now, content-wise, I consider the first two levels to be excellent examples of stellar adventure-writing; the third level, in comparison, feels a bit like an aftertaste and a gimmick, added on to the complex without tying into it as well – it’s still good, mind you – just not outstanding. Personally, I’d run levels 1 and 2, using level 3 perhaps as its own dungeon-hook for the proper complex. That being said, level 1 and 2 warrant getting the book on their own. At the same time, the hiccups and lack of player-friendly maps do drag this down a bit – which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

2/5

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

As always for this series, the default rules-system is OSRIC, and the presentation is perfectly in line with the nostalgic 1e style, down to the font. This is an old-school adventure, and as such, you should not expect much read-aloud text beyond the introduction. The cartography included within is functional, but does not include player-friendly maps. Cartography is serviceable. This module is, nominally, intended for 60 levels of PCs, so for PCs level 10 – 14. Officially. Unfortunately, much like the author’s last offering, this very much showcases that this module has not been playtested. This is an adventure more suitable for characters nearing or already at the apex of their power, and even then it is a meat-grinder with a boss that will make some of the deities as statted up in the classics weep.

Thematically, this goes as similar route as “The Lost pyramid of Imhotep”, and while I personally could derive some joy from said super-deadly meat-grinder of a module, this one does lack the angle of precise research acting as a contextualization.

But to discuss this further, I need to go into SPOILER territory. Players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great, so the White Worm is basically spreading winter from its icy fortress, the PCs should slay it, and on the way there, there’s a tomb where they can find a sword that will help with this endeavor. The premise is simple and offers some interesting angles; for example, the tomb that contains the legendary sword is the tomb/testing ground of one Harald Hardada[sic!], echoing obviously King Harald III of Norway, Harald Hardrada. In the iteration presented within, said mythical being was actually a frost giant, with all that entails. Indeed, while PAINFULLY linear, I can suspend my agenda for the purpose of the testing ground angle that the cairn of said being, and first, completely optional, dungeon operates under.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The trek towards the fortress of the white worm is handled with a mini-hexcrawl, and the longer the PCs take, the more spellcasting prowess their already super-potent enemy will have accumulated. The random encounters provided for the short trip are solid, if not particularly remarkable – yetis, winterwolves, frost giants, white dragons. Pretty much classic ice monsters. Without magic aid, the frigid cold will cause HP loss, which is a nice angle. The PCs will have to fight their way through a gated pass, and hopefully, they will check out the optional dungeon.

Why? Because Harald Hardada[sic!]'s dungeon is one where the author plays to his strengths: There is a logic to the challenges, deadly though they may be, and making a mythic hero a literal giant is a creative tweak that allows for some interesting changes to the logic of riddles and the like. When these work, then they do so with the same enjoyable effects as in e.g. “The Lost Pyramid of Imhotep”; when they don’t, however, then they come off as deliberate and nasty screwjobs. This is not only a super-linear dungeon in the way in which the rooms are aligned, it is also super-linear regarding solutions. Open the false door (no clues available) and you’ll be prismatic spray’d. In one room, failure to have a fire-based spell ready prevents getting further. All of these traps and the like are per se creative and interesting, if a bit sadistic. However, here’s the issue: There is pretty much no way for even mythologically-versed players to navigate these. Player skill does not really matter that much, and since the angle combines the myth of Harald (which does not help navigating the dungeon, fyi), Norse lore and frost giants, players are reduced to educated guesses in quite a few of these instances. I never thought I’d write this, but “The Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” feels positively fair in comparison.

And then there would be the main dungeon, a citadel carved into an iceberg, where the white worm lairs. Amazing set-up, right? Well, alas, it kinda lacks a distinct identity. Fire and ice, one could say, due to e.g. hell hounds, red dragons and the ice monsters you’d anticipate, but that’s about it. There are demons. The obligatory and tired mirror of life-trapping. The room where no less than 6 magic users wait to unload on the group. The traps and general sense of identity here feel distinctly magical, but not in the most interesting sense, and, as mentioned before, the final boss is basically on a deity’s level: AC -2, 6d8 damage (plus paralysis), breath weapon, constriction and both cleric and magic-user spell array. And over 200 hp. If there has ever been a boss where even killer-GM ole’ me has said “That’s overkill”, this would be it. If someone, ANYONE out there has killed this thing sans GM-fiat or ridiculous custom damage magic items that deal a crapton of bonus damage, let me know. Unless, by some miraculous event, my math skills have taken a serious nosedive, the chance to defeat this thing, even f the PCs and players do everything right, are next to nil. And before you ask: That super-sword, the dungeon of which probably has cost at least one or two PCs their lies? It’s actually pretty underwhelming regarding its abilities to best this monstrosity.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and the cartography is functional, but does not include player-friendly versions.

Alphonso Warden’s modules so far have been a mixed bag for me; on the one hand, there is a definite fascination that “The Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” managed to evoke, and I do like some of the creative traps. However, this does not change that, this module, alas, more so than the last, is frickin’ unfair in a bad way. Player agenda and skill do not matter that much, and the linearity of how this is supposed to work and solved, while not as pronounced as in previous adventures, lacks, much like the traps, a context that at least makes it possible for the players to deduce how this is supposed to be solved. More often than not, this comes down to luck and the roll of the dice, not to being clever.

And then there is the horribly out of whack difficulty. I’m not a GM who wants “level-appropriate challenges”; I throw dragons at 1st level PCs and expect them to run like crazy, grovel, etc. I have no problem TPKing my groups. But that type of thing must be EARNED and not subject to Gm fiat, to an adventure allowing only the author’s logic to persist. Unlike the lost pyramid, this lacks the mythology as a guiding principle, as an extensive, externalized hint-catalogue, and thus becomes, much as it pains me to say, an exercise in frustration. I so hope that the author would bring the same level of expertise and creativity regarding puzzles etc. to Norse myth in this one; instead, we unfortunately get a woefully unfair adventure that I would not inflict on any group. It’s not as bad as the atrociously-boring “The Prison of Meneptah”, but it’s close. My final verdict will be 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This class expansion for Thunderscape’s classes clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, first things first: This is an expansion for the Golemoid and Thunder Scout classes – as such, I assume familiarity with both classes in this review. If in doubt, consult the campaign setting to freshen up regarding their mechanics.

After a well-written piece of introductory fiction, but there is more to this: As the name implies, there are intrinsic connections to the setting’s flavor here: The class options are tied, flavor-wise, to the Iron Guard of Urbana, and as such, the content does not simply exist in a vacuum: The supplement does talk about the roles of golemoids and thunder scouts in the context of the setting. These blend rules-relevant components and history, in a way: We learn, for example, that specific golemoids excel as damage dealers, while others can act as blockers. Beyond, as noted, a history of the golemoid, we also learn about their role and public perception throughout Aden…and about, for example the black marketeers that may be able to salvage golemoid components, making them rather nasty repo men…should you decide that these exist in your game, that is. The interaction of golemoids and rust-causing beasts and effects is fyi also noted.

The golemoid manite implant array is significantly expanded by this book, though it should be noted that other characters with manite implant capacity do qualify for these. The minor implants include using an immediate action and expanding a steam point to use feather fall (not properly italicized), using a move action to create subsonic vibrations (subtle ones!) that penalize Perception and Sense Motive, expending a steam point to reroll initiative (only once per roll and you must take the reroll, thankfully!), using a standard action to make a touch attack that sickens the target on a failed save…some interesting ones here. Mechanically, I’m particularly partial to using Fearvun Ocular Implants to extend the range of precision damage and Point Blank Shot, making one of the most maligned feats ever more suitable. I’d definitely want a fire-starter digit IRL (you can make objects catch fire, and I really like the notion of an integrated grapnel launcher. (RAW, it can reel in stuff as a swift action and may not be used for at-range maneuvers, just fyi!) There are some formatting glitches, though – endure elements, for example, is capitalized and not italicized. If these sound underwhelming, fyi, bear in mind that manite implants are extraordinary, so the elemental enduring would be nonmagical! Auto-stablizing and similar tricks complement a solid, fun section here, one often benefitting from cool flavor: The auto-stabilizing option? It’s called “Phoenix Stabilizer”, which does sound pretty badass. And yes, there are upgrades and more potent versions there.

The basic implants do include some interesting and unique tricks – including a steam point based option to generate a thin sheet of steam that filters out harmful particles from the air. Nice one! Steam point based, limited condition curing with a self-only target, charging unarmed attacks etc. with a stunning charge, an integrated lie detector (sans 100% accuracy, thankfully), a bonus to atk versus undead, retractable claws and the like may be found. The latter btw. come with tightly codified damage types, but no notes on the type of natural attack, requiring defaulting in a minor comfort detriment. Also interesting: The ability to hold a spell of up to 3rd level, usable as a wand.

The section also includes 7 advanced manite implants that include becoming immune to effects specifically targeting metal creatures, the option to extend spells with a duration other than instantaneous or permanent via steam point expenditure and the like. The latter *can* be problematic for spells with different, specific effects by rounds and would probably have benefited from having a caveat that only applies to spells with a casting time contingent on caster levels, as measured in rounds, minutes, hours or similar increments. Weird: Hypnotic eyes lets you cast suggestion as a SP, which somewhat makes the interaction wonky: “Duplicate the effects of a suggestion spell…” would have been more feasible here, considering the per se default extraordinary nature of these tricks. Delayed phoenix raise dead via previous, significant steam point investment is interesting and gaining additional ring sockets is also a unique trick. There also are three superior implants, one of which nets a 30 ft. cone of electricity. Cosmetic nitpick: There is no such thing as electric damage – the correct term is “electricity damage.”

The pdf also includes two new golemoid specializations: The steamshadow gets steam point based disguise self, courtesy of the integrated illusion matrix and Dexterity to damage when attacking with a single, chosen one-handed or light weapon. This should probably specify that Strength is not added in such cases, though at least two-handed wielding interaction is covered. The improved specialization provides a variant of Hide in Plain Sight, better Stealth and squeezing. Nice: The pdf accounts for the issue that 1st level characters should gain access to the skills granted by this one, contingent on the fact that they take the steamshadow specialization. The level 17 ability nets an automatic critical threat when hitting a flat-footed target and they get steam point-based mislead. The harrier specialization nets better Acrobatics and may choose to trail steam and generate steam clouds – cool soft terrain control angle. The high level options further emphasize this, allowing for two unique tricks: Swift action movement and a multi-target trip/move make for cool tricks. The pdf also features quite an extensive array of new steamreaver weapons. These include aci-drills, cyclone maces and the like – they all come with passive and steam-based tricks, and they are surprisingly cool and unique regarding their benefits. Big plus here!

The pdf also includes one new golemoid archetype, the modular, who replaces basic combat specialization with +1 basic and minor implant at 2nd level and +2 steam points. Whenever they gain access to a new implant level, they also get +1 implant. They are locked into Extra Steam or Manite Implant for bonus feat choices at 3rd, 11th and 19th level (the feats are not properly capitalized) and instead of interchangeable parts, the archetype can, as a full-round action, spend steam to change one of their implants to another of the same implant level, with costs depending on the implant level. 13th decreases the activation action to standard, and 18th level allows for the change of multiple implants at once. Instead of the improved combat specialization, the golemoid gains a bonus swift action at 9th level, but one that may ONLY be used to activate manite implantsm steam mastery effects or steam feats. At 17th level, the modular regains 1 steam point at the end of the round, whenever they spend more than 3 points of steam in a round. This may just be an engine tweak, but it is one that radically changes how the class plays. Nice one. The pdf also provides 9 different, new steam feats, contingent on both old and new specializations and choices: With Aci-Deluge, aci-drill specialists can spray acid; there is a feat that allows for the limited regaining of steam (and no, it can’t be cheesed!), one that nets you temporary hit points…and here, I whip out my trusty bag of badly mistreated kittens. Unfortunately, the duration of these temporary hit points is an hour, and the ability explicitly notes that it stacks with itself. As long as you have kittens to slaughter, you can generate a massive shield of temporary hit points. That is just bad design, and utterly uncharacteristic for the otherwise tight rules within this book.

We also get two sample golemoids: Hesh Dargoh, a ferran predator (tiger) steamreaver, who, as a cyborg-anthro-tiger is probably one of the most badass iconics I’ve seen. Stats for level 1, 6 and 12 are provided. The second sample NPC would be Satsobek, a rapacian steamshadow, who also gets stats for these levels.

The second class covered in this book would be, as mentioned before, the thunder scouts, and in the flavorful write-up section here, we learn about the crude secret language of thunder runes (and who is liable to know them!), public reception, etc. 14 different scout techniques are introduced, allowing for limited mechamage spell-poaching, + class level to Acrobatics to avoid AoOs, increased vehicle jumps, better vehicle or regular movement charge damage, and there is a 1/day option to use a swift action to gain a move action limited to movement – basically a built-in quickrunner’s shirt. Sharing favored terrain bonuses with allies is also solid, and zig-zag charging, running etc. can also be found. The class also gets a variety of new class exclusive spells that interact with the signature vehicle: Hazard zone nets the vehicle a threat range that can inflict collision damage at half speed, while Jerome’s Command is a cantrip for signature vehicle actions. There are a variety of retrofit spells, which allow for quick changing of bonus features, including notes on sidecars and even vehicle type change for the true version of the spell at 4th level. Rubber ride allows for vehicle squeezing (heck yes!) and did I mention the option to create shadow vehicles? Yeah, amazing!

We also get two new fully statted basic vehicles – the Mekanus Loader, an exo suit, and the high-speed arctic snow hare. Love them! There also are three new advanced vehicles, the first of which is the wagon of wonders, a wagon that may upright itself, is lieghtly fortified and an all-terrain Huge vehicle with air generator etc. Really cool! Speaking of which: What about dirigibles? And yeah, these can be made nonflammable. Finally, subterrane mole machines are damn cool – if these feature prominently in your game, playing Gaming Paper’s classic “Citadel of Pain” adventure may be a good idea… ;) And yes, we get a unique feature here as well. The vehicle also provides a crucial bit of clarification: Co-piloted signature vessels retain their status while the thunder scout is manning the pilot station. The pdf also includes the Tsunami superior vehicle, an ironclad marvel of naval warfare, a deadly gunboat…Oh, and prices for signature vehicles are provided! Less daily maintenance, jump pistons, parachutes and ultra-light frames are included among the new vehicle features included within. The pdf also provides rules for the Jump vehicle maneuver.

There also are two thunder scout archetypes: The iron scout replaces spellcasting with limited golemoid tricks with Int mod + ½ class level steam points, using Intelligence rather than Constitution as governing attribute, with Igniter provided for free, but usable only to power mechamagical engines. Instead of the bonus feats, the archetype allows for the use of steam points to operate signature vehicles sans using their hands, with increasing power. Lone Rider, the second archetype, loses additional vehicles, and instead nets a bonus HD and feature at the levels when these would be otherwise gained. Bland.

There is one archetype for other classes: the metalheart bard: Instead of spells, cantrip and bardic knowledge, the metalheart gets ½ class level + Charisma modifier steampoints, using Charisma as governing modifier for them and manite implants as a golemoid. They can double the range of bardic performances for a round by spending steam points, and 5th level nets combat specialization, with 13th level netting the improved combat specialization, but must take the one chosen at “level 6” – that should be level 5. Higher level options include using bardic performance for greater dispel magic (not italicized) and steam point/performance synergy. Interesting hybrid archetype. The thunder scout class also gets two different sample NPCs – a half-elven thunder scout (lone rider) named Lucius “Finder” DeNiels (once more, level 1, 6 and 12) and the dwarven Isolde Waldorf (ditto regarding levels). Both of these characters get signature vehicle stats for all their levels.

The pdf also sports a couple of mundane equipment choices for better climbing, baskets that halve the weight of ferrous objects carried, parachutes and the like. There are three weapon special abilities, one of which allows for automated vehicle gunner tripods, one for sonic damage and one for reduced penalties for attacks with speeding vehicles. A rod that can clamp down on vehicles (think of these as a magical tire clamp), one that unfolds a vehicle…some cool ones here. A painful and unstable elixir that temporarily grants manite implants, reduced collision damage, jet boosters, a draught that replenishes steam points, a good luck charm for pilots…pretty cool. The pdf also notes a couple of traits from the background category. A minor issue here: While these are well-designed and interesting, one of them gets the bonus type wrong. Really cool: The pdf ends with a section that provides role-playing tips for the options within, as well as 2 tables with 10 entries, each of which sports different origin stories. Cool!

Conclusion:

Editing is excellent on a formal level, and the rules language editing is similarly very good – however, formatting is not as good. There are a ton of missed italicizations and wrong formatting choices, as well as a couple of issues in finer rules-formatting. These are few and far in.between, but ina book of this quality, they do show. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that manages to fit a TON of content on each page – this book could have been twice the size. You get quite a lot of content for your bucks. Artworks deserve special mention: Full-color, original and style-wise consistent with campaign setting and cover art, this is a beautiful book. Annoying: The pdf does not have any bookmarks, which is a huge comfort detriment for a book of this size. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the print version, since I do not own it.

Rich Wulf, Christopher Koch, Matthew Tyler and Michael Lawrence provide an amazing expansion for the golemoid and thunder scout classes – while I like the new manite implants very much, I was mostly enamored with the vast potential of the thunder scout tricks. That class is inspiring, and this books made me think of many amazing encounter, adventure and campaign ideas. The blending of unobtrusive flavor and crunch makes for a great supplement of high-quality crunch. That being said, the minor hiccups in the details and formatting do accumulate, and the lack of bookmarks is utterly puzzling. These aspects do tarnish slightly what would otherwise be an excellent book. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As far as supplemental material is concerned, the module includes stats for a Small negative energy elemental, which is nice, as well as an evil book contained some dark rituals and tricks for folks associated with the living dead. These, alas, do not come with proper rules-codification and thus render the book very much an evil story-item for the PCs to destroy – somewhat odd, considering that the presentation makes it look like a regular item, and since the defense mechanisms of the book have been properly codified. The module sports read-aloud text for your convenience and provides some guidance regarding negotiation etc. during the initial hiring talks.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs are hired to retrieve a caravan’s crew, taken hostage by hobgoblins, and, if possible, a couple of barrels of wine the goblinoids stole. A mad beggar pronounced a dire warning as the PCs set off. En route, we have a random encounter chosen from a list of 6 (solid, brief ones; nothing too crazy), before the PCs arrive at the hobgoblin cave, where the first couple of rooms present a pretty vanilla hobgoblin crawl, with a CR 3 ranger and CR 2 acolyte statblock; the dungeon’s first 10 rooms offer some choice, aren’t linear and generally are nice. The one thing that’s odd in the complex would be all those weathered glyphs on the walls.

Well, turns out that this is a bait and switch scenario: the complex is neatly bisected into two different areas, with the final 4 areas across the river containing the remnants of agents of the cult of dread Tyrkaven: Extremely fast (50 ft.!) cursed zombies with CR ½ and the ability to emit a bolstering screech. Casting a single necromancy spell alerts these critters and has them burst into the rest of the complex! (The speed is important, also since they need to jump across the river and have no ranks in Acrobatics.) Chaos erupts, and chances are that the single hobgoblin who fights alongside the PCs may make for an interesting future ally. The Warmaster of these tyrkaven-zombies clocks in at CR 4, and the ghost of a madman can potentially provide further hooks. The pdf contains two handouts, which is a nice bonus. No template to create your own tyrkaven-undead is included, alas.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid full-color artworks. The cartography is similarly full color and nice, though, alas, no player-friendly version is included. The pdf has bookmarks that work, though they show up as gibberish in my version. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version. Kudos!

Dale McCoy Jr. provides a nice and solidly-executed bait-and-switch scenario. It’s not necessarily a groundbreaking one, but it doesn’t try to be. It executes its angle well and is enjoyable. That being said, there are a couple of small details in book, lack of player-friendly map, etc. that make this one feel less polished than the excellent, more recent installments in the series. All in all, I consider this to be a solid and fun module that plays better than it reads, at least in the hands of an experienced GM. Having an enemy-progressing chart/tracker would have made sense here. All in all, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

2/5

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

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.

This adventure is intended for 2nd level characters. The module does feature read-aloud text.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great!

Ramila Cythin, a 16-year-old girl, is dying due to the attack of nocturnals– she attempted to bring wares to the markets of Balaquim, and while she was saved, her heart has become damaged. Sending a letter to her dad, who has also been wounded, just while in Ulmari, he has one gambit – a mechanical heart that may save his daughter. Thus, the wounded man hires the PCs to get the heart for him and bring it to his daughter. The PCs will manage to find Razeem (fully statted), who turns out to be a black market dealer who tries to scam them for more money.

A steamboat towards Cyrir waiting, the PCs are off towards the girl – and en route, they will be attacked by corrupted young crocodiles. From there, they will need to hike towards the thunder train station (12 hours of forced march), including a battle with cacklers. As the PCs approach their destination, they are hounded by a large group of nocturnal. What kind? No idea, not described. Neither can the PCs take a stand. The read-aloud text railroads them towards the gates of the garrison, and on the train, a goreaux mechamage with metal golem minion and a jurak barbarian will try to rob the train. Both are fully statted and members of the golemoid pirate Horus Kithbane’s crew – is the heart tainted? This is a good place to note that the lack of maps hurts this adventure. The descriptions are not nearly detailed enough to properly portray the battle environments of the module, and this particularly shows on board of the train. We have no idea regarding its dimensions, NPCs there, anything – everything is an opaque blur.

Conclusion:

Editing is tight in all regards, but formatting is not nearly as tight: Italicizations are missing left and right. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the sports a nice artwork that Aden fans will recognize. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length. The pdf has no cartography or battle maps, which is a problem: Since the description is not exactly precise regarding combat environments, the battles feel opaque. As there are no maps, there also are no player-friendly maps.

This module by Shawn Carman and Ryan Boudwin is slightly better than the first Thunderscape Night…but not by much. Once more, there is 0 player agenda to be had; once more, there are no choices or consequences. The module implies that time is of the essence, but de factor, it doesn’t matter at all. The PCs have no hand in saving the girl, other than acting as couriers. The final encounter feels like it has been arbitrarily tacked in; the read aloud text forces the PCs to do things they wouldn’t do, when fighting with a garrison of NPCs would have been so much cooler. In short, this is a lackluster railroad. The concept is cool and the idea of a short journey is nice, but the opaque combat scenarios, coupled with the brevity, lack of consequences and comparably bland challenges, renders this, alas, not significantly better than the first one., My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

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

We begin with 7 new basic talents:

-Dampen Light: 1 minute per caster level variant of darkness that doesn’t require concentration to maintain; dims light by one step and can allow for (meld) talents to work, but not (darkness) talents. Effects that interact with darkness can apply to a Dampen Light area. May be taken twice for the option to move light levels by two steps. Interesting one.

-Dappled Shadows: Reduce darkness radius in 5 ft. increments to create a second sphere with a radius equal to the subtracted amount. You may do this multiple times to create multiple areas. Okay, so is each area the size of the subtracted total, or do the areas have to be paid for individually? I assume the latter due to a lack of other limitations, but it would have behooved the talent to specify that. The Wall of Darkness’ cubes may also be affected thus, eliminating the need to place them contiguously. Okay, how does that interact with Clinging Darkness? Does that allow for multiple targets? How does it interact with Rolling Blackout? Do all darkness effects move in the same direction? Can they be individually steered? I assume that these additional spheres are still treated as the original darkness, but rules-language could be clearer there.

-Dual Darkness: Spend a spell point to add two (darkness) talents to a single darkness. Get interaction with midnight right.

-Ranged Darkness: Increases range to Long.

-Shadowing Darkness: Make darkness cling to a target for one round after leaving your darkness, including effects; any light level but bright light is treated as total darkness, bright light as dim light while the effect clings to the target. If you spend a spell point when creating the area, the effects linger for +1 round per 2 caster levels, though a creature can attempt a Ref-save at the end of the turn to end it. Slightly odd mechanically: RAW, if the target is forcibly moved from the darkness, it gets no save from the talent, while with spell points, it does. This could be slightly more precise, but I’m nitpicking here.

-Shifting Shadows: As a free action at the start of your turn or when beginning your turn, you can remove 5-ft. squares (1 + another one per 2 caster levels) from the area to add them to another contiguous area of darkness. Has a limit of how many you can modify per turn.

-Umbral Burst: Spend a spell point to create darkness as a swift action. It only lasts for a round, but may not be maintained or extended. Nice one!

The pdf also sports 3 advanced talents:

-Eternal Darkness: 2 spell points, makes darkness permanent. It’s unmoving though. Problem: Works with Shifting Shadows, which RAW allows you to slowly move your permanent darkness effects around, a couple of squares at a time. The problem here is Shifting Shadows not specifying that the darkness reverts to its original shape.

-Pitch Black: Pure Darkness no longer counts against the number of (darkness) talents that may be applied to darkness. Additionally, lets you spend an additional spell point to make even bright light become darkness and limit other forms of sight.

-Vanish in Shadow: Lets the target benefit from Hide in Darkness meld, even when the target is in an area of darkness or dim light that you did not create. For +1 spell point, those affected by the meld also require Perception to be noticed by targets with blindsight and similar sensory effects.

The pdf also includes two sphere-specific drawbacks:

-Black Spot: Shrinks area of your darkness to 5 ft.; it can’t be changed in any way.

-Penumbra: You can’t use darkness or Darkness talents; instead, you are locked into Dampen Light as bonus talent.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level is very good. On a rules-language level, there are some minor hiccups in the details, but nothing game-breaking. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a solid stock artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length.

Amber Underwood’s dark talents are solid; while I was slightly saddened to see no new shadow or blot talents within, we do get a couple of nice ones. At the low price point, I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This supplement clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, which, as always with Legendary Games, manages to cram quite a lot of text on each page, so let’s take a look!

It is an interesting observation for serious students of history, whether professional or amateur, when one discovers the extent to which religious and regular festivals have shaped the course of life for literally thousands of years; while we tend to glamorize the iconic knight tournaments and jousting, the fact is that both combat challenges and religious festivals have had a huge impact on daily life in ages past, perhaps to an extent that surpasses what we nowadays can experience in festivals and the like. Religious festivals in particular have shaped the experience of the middle ages to a much more significant degree than most folks realize.

It is interesting to note, then, that tournaments and the like, as important as they are, only rarely feature prominently within the context of roleplaying games. While I do know of a few modules featuring festivals as backdrops, there isn’t that much material out there to create them yourself. This pdf, which should come as no surprise, seeks to remedy that. We begin by establishing festival size and mechanical impacts of these on the game – whether it’s the GP-limit or, if you’re using Ultimate Rulership (which you should!), the basics are provided in detail. If you don’t have the festival edict rules from that book, fret not, btw. – they are included in the back.

The pdf provides the rules for navigating the throng of the crowds and finding particular locales next – and these take cost of living status into account: rich folks have an easier time finding exclusive places.

Tournaments are more than entertainment, though, and indeed were a place of politicking, where fortunes could be made or lost – as such, the pdf provides synergy with various subsystems from honor to relationships, without necessarily requiring them. The right seating and lodging can make a difference on the localized fame or infamy the PCs have; this value is known as renown and based on honor or reputation, with the starting value being the sum, divided by 10. Big plus: In the absence of these subsystems, there is another way to calculate this value – you can use them all in conjunction, but you don’t have to! Using magic to create illusory splendor, winning the “king of the hill” spot in the lottery and the like are all discussed.

In advertisement, there is the saying that promotion’s everything – and this held true back in the day as well, with 5 sample promotions and associated skills and special effects accounted for. The pdf also discusses differences in magic saturation – how a gritty, low-fantasy foot-race may well become a teleportation-contest in a high-fantasy game, for example – it’s nice to see such concerns spelled out. Speaking of which: For as long as there have been games of chance and contests, there have been attempts to cheat. The supplement proceeds to discuss on how to quickly and easily assert attitudes towards cheating, and using background checks in conjunction with the fair is similarly discussed.

These basics out of the way, we move on to the section aptly titled “Rural Delights” – here, we are introduced to 5 minigames, ranging from caterpillar eating, rope swing and jump to squirrel racing and whittling. These have in common that their rules are tightly presented, easy to grasp…and the contests are quickly resolved, preventing boredom at the table. Furthermore, we get two potential complications per such contest. Obviously, eating and drinking contests as well as jumping events have been included as well, though these do get their own dedicated sections, differentiating between different contests within. The racing event section also deserves special mention, with sprints, endurance races, relays, steeple chases and riding or swimming races covered in detail. A minor note of complaint: It would have been awesome to see a flying race rule-array as well, though it’s easy enough to extrapolate from the concisely-presented rules here.

Tests of strength, from Scottish caber tossing, distance throwing, tug-o-war, weightlifting – quite impressive array, with simple and quick to play rules. The pdf also features rules for mock battles (performance combat synergy provided): We get easy to grasp jousting rules that take actual mounted combat prowess into account (yep, those fellows will be better than characters who don’t have feats pertaining mounted combat), and resolution is explained in a tight manner. The special considerations of fantastic settings are taken into account, mentioning the potential for vertical jousts or aquatic or aerial variants. 7 sample competitors are provided for the GM here. Target shooting and unarmed combat events are presented in a similarly tight manner: The latter actually provides rules for boxing, wrestling and even sumo! Scoring is noted and the respective unarmed combats actually have a strategic element: In a boxing match, it makes a difference whether you try for a combination or a head butt. As an interesting note: I can see these rules fitting regular unarmed combat just as well, making that aspect of the game more interesting.

Speaking of which: if that sounded to mundane for your tastes: What about a variety of distinctly fantastic minigames/festival events? The pillars of life and death is about using positive and negative energy to capture pillars conductive to these energy forms! I can see this work great as a means in a neutral (or sufficiently cosmopolitan) society to deal with disputes between churches, for example – sample contestants and cheating methods are provided, fyi. Magical shooting galleries with magic-powered wind, hacking through logs as fast as possible or fighting magical creatures in a kind of illusion-powered endurance combat are provided as well. What about retrieving gems from a 60 ft. pole…or the half-fiendish nightmare assassin who relishes in humiliating would-be jousters, ruining their reputation before killing them? (Yep, the latter comes with full stats, and sample competitors are provided for the contests, where applicable.) The pdf then ends this discussion with renown gathered designating their overall performance – and yes, the PCs could theoretically get a company with Ultimate Battle synergy.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches or issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and sports some amazing full-color artworks I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Jason Nelson and Mike Welham provide a truly amazing supplement here: Royal tournaments fills a criminally neglected niche in the game, and does so with panache aplomb. The various rules within take the extensive array of subsystems into account without requiring them; the presentation is easy to grasp, and implementing the rules within is next to no work on the GM. The various minigames and events are characterized by being quickly resolved, preventing boredom, though expansion always remains a distinct possibility. If anything, this book, like a good festival or tournament, ended with a somber note for me – I didn’t want this book to end and wished it was even longer! There are few books that manage to elicit this kind of response to this degree. The effortless simplicity of the rules for the contests and games is deceptive, as anyone who has attempted to design such minigames themselves can attest to. Personally, I will combine this one with Everyman Gaming’s superb Skill Challenge Handbook, the latter helping with team-challenges.

So yeah, Royal Tournaments succeeds with a grace befitting of the “royal” moniker at its chosen task; it represents an amazing toolkit for the GM and should be considered to be a must-own supplement. Heck, even if you’re not interested in running a tournament, this is worth getting. Why? Because all of these mini-games are one reskinning away from working as puzzle-challenges or weird obstacles in the dungeon of your choice! This book thus manages to surpass its designated design goal by leaps and bounds and represents, even in Legendary Games’ extensive canon of excellent books, one of my all-time favorite supplements. As such, this is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + my seal of approval, and this also qualifies as a candidate for my Top ten of 2018. This is pure gold and belongs in any GM’s toolbox.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

Okay, I’m going to deviate slightly from my usual formula, due to the unique structure of this series. The Star System series by AAW Games is customer-friendly, in that you can get the whole star system, or just the component that interests you: Just want a new race? You can get just the race and ignore the rest. This is made possible by a card-like presentation akin to what we know from the company’s super-popular mini-dungeons series. You can just get one card, or the whole set.

Each star system consists of 6 different such cards, meaning you’ll get a page-count of 12 pages. In order to facilitate posting the reviews for these component pdfs without having to rewrite my review time and again and losing time to cut-copy-pasting etc., I’m going to structure this review of the complete set accordingly. This set was penned in its entirety by Michael Allen.

Since I will base my reviews on the collected sets, I will provide an overall conclusion etc. at the bottom.

The star system components are:

Planet:

On this card, we are introduced to the Querritix system, which features a yellow dwarf, 4 planets and an asteroid belt – the latter actually features a couple of terraformed dwarf planets with potentially dangerous atmospheres. (And yes, we get an artwork depicting the system!) The planet closest to the sun, Schyllus, is a nickel planet that combines Con-track poison with radiation. The second page is particularly devoted to life here – which is mostly found on the planet Rendari and, surprisingly, the asteroid belt. Indeed, Rendari does have unique defenses – its 16 moons plus asteroid density make it, well, not exactly easy to navigate to, but present an excellent defense versus meteorites. 4 fluff-only entries of neat sample NPCs (with suggested levels/classes and race etc. noted) are provided, and the card also comes with 3 different adventure hooks that all have an interesting angle regarding the new race featured in this system.

Interesting system; not groundbreaking, but worth checking out. 4 stars.

Race:

So, the new race here would be the haesten, who receive +2 Dex and Cha – 2Str, 4 HP, darkvision 60 ft. and a +2 racial bonus to Acrobatics and Athletics. They are Medium aberrations and get +2 to KAC versus combat maneuvers. Oddly, here, the bonus is untyped, when typing it as racial would make more sense. The glowing eyes and membranes of the haesten also provide a +2 racial bonus to Bluff checks made versus creatures that can see them. A big plus here would be that the race is actually interesting: The haesten, while known for being a race of philosophers and smart folks, do have a unique lifecycle and represent an interesting inversion: Artwork-wise, they are very much reminiscent of the mi-go, though they represent a more benign version of the classic. That being said, their hatchlings are pretty much dangerous animals. When haesten approach the end of their life-cycle, their limbs drop off and they become a brain pod – their hatchlings fuse with it and thus gain a kind of racial memory from the brain pod, though variations do occur here, meaning that new haesten are not necessarily copies of their progenitors. As you could glean from that, the race is genderless and comes with a full racial write-up, one only missing the “Playing a haesten…” sidebar that the SFRPG core races feature. I love this race from a thematic point of view – it’s a really cool idea!

That being said, the rules presented for them are slightly less interesting than the concept deserves – the concept is great, the rules less so. Hence, my rating for this component will be 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Character Options:

This card introduces a concept I enjoy – the biofield, basically a connection of living things in the universe. With the Bioconnection feat, you can tap into this field. Once per day, after spending 10 minutes in joint meditation with a willing creature, you gain one of the creature’s feats for 24 hours. You do not need to meet prerequisites. This is problematic, courtesy of the final sentence. You could get feats based on class abilities or racial abilities, which would make no sense and for weird interactions. The prerequisites should be required to be met. The pattern seeker theme nets +1 Wisdom and reduces Life Science and Engineering DCs to identify creatures by 5; it also nets Sense Motive as a class skills. 6th level makes identifying creatures via mysticism easier and nets you +2 to Diplomacy versus identified creatures. 12th level also nets +2 to Intimidate versus identified creatures and a 1/day reroll of such a check. At 18th level, up to 2/day, after succeeding Diplomacy or Intimidate check versus a creature identified, you can spend 10 minutes in contemplation to regain 1 Resolve Point. Kudos: The ability specifies that this does NOT count as replenishing Stamina.

The card also contains 4 different spells: Calm emotions is a mystic level 2 spell and can make for a potent buff/debuff, as it automatically suppresses fear or confusion, as well as rages, morale bonuses – you get the idea of what this does. Enhance mind thrust is interesting, in that it comes in 5 iterations for the mystic and has no effect on its own – it represents a spell to enhance, you guessed it, mind thrust, with a pretty steep Mysticism check to use the enhancement more than twice. Drain biofield is a level 2 – 4 spell for both mystic and technomancer. This one basically acts as an upgradeable nonlethal mind thrust – at higher spell levels, you get to choose whether to inflict nonlethal or lethal damage. Biofield boost is a mystic level 1 – 3 spell, level 2 – 4 for the technomancer. This spell lets you temporarily suspend ability damage or drain – the level 1 version may be a bit strong here, but your mileage may vary.

All in all, a solid card, though not one that blew me away. 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Equipment:

The heart of this section would be the notion of boarding weapons, which reminded me of one of my favorite C-movies of all time, Star Crash. A boarding weapon managing to breech or clamp onto a hull successfully delivers its boarding teams. You roll on the critical damage effect table to determine the system affected by the boarding team, and on a success of the affected crew member’s check, the team is repelled. On a failure, we get one level of critical damage to the system in question. This is interesting in that it does bypass the Critical Threshold, which is a pretty potent thing – however, this is balanced by the rather massive BP-and PCU-costs: The most potent of these clock in at up to twice the PCU of a comparable weapon! 6 of these are provided, and they are all tracking weapons, though e.g. speed also represents a balancing factor. A security bay and drift boosters are provides as expansion bays. Cool: The latter is a one-use emergency drift engine, and once it burns out, its bys can serve as cargo bays. Lost in Space, anyone? There also is the repel boarders crew action, which may be undertaken during Engineering, Helm or Gunnery phases. I liked this. As a whole, the boarding rules do not necessarily mean/imply regular beings, more some sort of tech-style nanite/biogel-etc.-boarding, thus avoiding the huge cluster-f*** that this’d otherwise become; while the flavor does encapsulate teams, I’d strongly suggest making this type of boarding, well, tech-based. The abstraction of boarding team elimination can otherwise become weird for smaller ships. The section also provides two distinctly haesten ships, the tier 1 nursery pod, and the tier 9 nursery crèche.

This card is a strong offering. Some fun ideas here, and I like the ships taking the species’ peculiarities into account. 5 stars.

Monsters:

Here, we get two new critters, both coming with really neat full-color artworks: The CR 1 Haesten Hatchling, whose pincer attacks can cause lesser confusion (not properly italicized) as their attacks attempt to establish a bioelectric link. Killing them causes their bioelectricity to discharge. Now, haesten are introspective by requirement – knowing that, eventually, your legs will fall off and you’ll be subsumed by the next generation is pretty frightening. Some haesten can’t deal with it – these become the CR 3 rogue brain pods, studded with rather dangerous SPs and the ability to fire multiple energy rays, with a cooldown. These mad brain pods are the reason most nursery crèches don’t have an escape pod… Neat. Really like these.

Another strong card in the set. 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Mini-Adventure:

This adventure is intended for 4 – 5 2nd level PCs. The mini-adventure comes with a full-color map, though no player-friendly iteration is included. It also features both of the monsters – a shorthand of the monster-entries sans stories is provided. You can run this module sans access to the monsters-card, though it does lose its impact a bit. There is a formatting hiccup in one of the shorthand statblocks, but nothing grievous.

This being the section of system’s review that talks about the adventure included, the following contains SPOILERS. Players should jump ahead to the verdict/conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Soft Words on Wind, a haesten philosopher-poet, was approaching the end of their life-cycle; as such, they boarded their crèche, far from the Querritix system, preparing for the birth of the new generation of philosopher poets, who’d spread their beliefs to the stars. Unfortunately, Soft Words on Wind broke under the stress, sending forth a distress signal. As the PCs explore the little dungeon of sorts, they will encounter the deadly defenses of the rogue pod brain, as well as the hatchlings – in short, this is an introduction by witnessing it to the unique life-cycle of the race, and yes, traps, DCs etc. are sensible. Now, personally, I would have enjoyed an additional reward for successfully keeping all hatchlings alive, but that is just me nitpicking. The second card-page has a bit blank space: A creepy little dressing-table or small sequence tally would have filled the space and made it even nicer. Similarly, making the NPC BBEG a bit more unique re stats would have been nice.

All in all, this is a fun module, considering the limited space it had available. 4 stars.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good of a formal and rules-language perspective – I noticed a few guffaws, but nothing too serious. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the artworks and cartography provided is nice. The complete set does features individual bookmarks for each card.

Michael Allen’s star system is a big step up when compared to the first star system set in the series. The set definitely benefits from a unified creative vision, and Michael Allen did something I did not expect. You see, I saw the Mi-go-ish artwork, rolled my eyes, and put this aside for a while. I shouldn’t have. The star system does present a truly interesting, alien race that feels profoundly strange. It’s what I want, race-wise, from SFRPG – not just x new humanoids, but strange species that feel new. The haesten’s lifecycle and its ramifications are definitely something I’d enjoy exploring as both a player and GM. Is the truth about it known? What if an enemy force hijacked their creches, seeking to spread fear of the race in a propaganda-war? There is quite a lot of potential here.

I liked this star system A LOT more than the previous one; my final verdict for the whole set will clock in at 4 stars. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a truly different type of race!

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

Mini-Adventure:

This adventure is intended for 4 – 5 2nd level PCs. The mini-adventure comes with a full-color map, though no player-friendly iteration is included. It also features both of the monsters – a shorthand of the monster-entries sans stories is provided. You can run this module sans access to the monsters-card, though it does lose its impact a bit. There is a formatting hiccup in one of the shorthand statblocks, but nothing grievous.

This being the section of system’s review that talks about the adventure included, the following contains SPOILERS. Players should jump ahead to the verdict/conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Soft Words on Wind, a haesten philosopher-poet, was approaching the end of their life-cycle; as such, they boarded their crèche, far from the Querritix system, preparing for the birth of the new generation of philosopher poets, who’d spread their beliefs to the stars. Unfortunately, Soft Words on Wind broke under the stress, sending forth a distress signal. As the PCs explore the little dungeon of sorts, they will encounter the deadly defenses of the rogue pod brain, as well as the hatchlings – in short, this is an introduction by witnessing it to the unique life-cycle of the race, and yes, traps, DCs etc. are sensible. Now, personally, I would have enjoyed an additional reward for successfully keeping all hatchlings alive, but that is just me nitpicking. The second card-page has a bit blank space: A creepy little dressing-table or small sequence tally would have filled the space and made it even nicer. Similarly, making the NPC BBEG a bit more unique re stats would have been nice.

All in all, this is a fun module, considering the limited space it had available. 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

Monsters:

Here, we get two new critters, both coming with really neat full-color artworks: The CR 1 Haesten Hatchling, whose pincer attacks can cause lesser confusion (not properly italicized) as their attacks attempt to establish a bioelectric link. Killing them causes their bioelectricity to discharge. Now, haesten are introspective by requirement – knowing that, eventually, your legs will fall off and you’ll be subsumed by the next generation is pretty frightening. Some haesten can’t deal with it – these become the CR 3 rogue brain pods, studded with rather dangerous SPs and the ability to fire multiple energy rays, with a cooldown. These mad brain pods are the reason most nursery crèches don’t have an escape pod… Neat. Really like these.

Another strong card in the set. 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Add to Cart

An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

Equipment:

The heart of this section would be the notion of boarding weapons, which reminded me of one of my favorite C-movies of all time, Star Crash. A boarding weapon managing to breech or clamp onto a hull successfully delivers its boarding teams. You roll on the critical damage effect table to determine the system affected by the boarding team, and on a success of the affected crew member’s check, the team is repelled. On a failure, we get one level of critical damage to the system in question. This is interesting in that it does bypass the Critical Threshold, which is a pretty potent thing – however, this is balanced by the rather massive BP-and PCU-costs: The most potent of these clock in at up to twice the PCU of a comparable weapon! 6 of these are provided, and they are all tracking weapons, though e.g. speed also represents a balancing factor. A security bay and drift boosters are provides as expansion bays. Cool: The latter is a one-use emergency drift engine, and once it burns out, its bys can serve as cargo bays. Lost in Space, anyone? There also is the repel boarders crew action, which may be undertaken during Engineering, Helm or Gunnery phases. I liked this. As a whole, the boarding rules do not necessarily mean/imply regular beings, more some sort of tech-style nanite/biogel-etc.-boarding, thus avoiding the huge cluster-f*** that this’d otherwise become; while the flavor does encapsulate teams, I’d strongly suggest making this type of boarding, well, tech-based. The abstraction of boarding team elimination can otherwise become weird for smaller ships. The section also provides two distinctly haesten ships, the tier 1 nursery pod, and the tier 9 nursery crèche.

This card is a strong offering. Some fun ideas here, and I like the ships taking the species’ peculiarities into account. 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


Our Price: $1.99

Add to Cart

An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

Character Options:

This card introduces a concept I enjoy – the biofield, basically a connection of living things in the universe. With the Bioconnection feat, you can tap into this field. Once per day, after spending 10 minutes in joint meditation with a willing creature, you gain one of the creature’s feats for 24 hours. You do not need to meet prerequisites. This is problematic, courtesy of the final sentence. You could get feats based on class abilities or racial abilities, which would make no sense and for weird interactions. The prerequisites should be required to be met. The pattern seeker theme nets +1 Wisdom and reduces Life Science and Engineering DCs to identify creatures by 5; it also nets Sense Motive as a class skills. 6th level makes identifying creatures via mysticism easier and nets you +2 to Diplomacy versus identified creatures. 12th level also nets +2 to Intimidate versus identified creatures and a 1/day reroll of such a check. At 18th level, up to 2/day, after succeeding Diplomacy or Intimidate check versus a creature identified, you can spend 10 minutes in contemplation to regain 1 Resolve Point. Kudos: The ability specifies that this does NOT count as replenishing Stamina.

The card also contains 4 different spells: Calm emotions is a mystic level 2 spell and can make for a potent buff/debuff, as it automatically suppresses fear or confusion, as well as rages, morale bonuses – you get the idea of what this does. Enhance mind thrust is interesting, in that it comes in 5 iterations for the mystic and has no effect on its own – it represents a spell to enhance, you guessed it, mind thrust, with a pretty steep Mysticism check to use the enhancement more than twice. Drain biofield is a level 2 – 4 spell for both mystic and technomancer. This one basically acts as an upgradeable nonlethal mind thrust – at higher spell levels, you get to choose whether to inflict nonlethal or lethal damage. Biofield boost is a mystic level 1 – 3 spell, level 2 – 4 for the technomancer. This spell lets you temporarily suspend ability damage or drain – the level 1 version may be a bit strong here, but your mileage may vary.

All in all, a solid card, though not one that blew me away. 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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