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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

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

We begin this pdf with 5 new basic talents: Earthlord enhances the radius of earth geomancing abilities by 5 ft. per (earth) talent you possess. (Fyi: All talents herein have that tag!) Also designated as (spirit), Foundation requires dirt, sand or stone and nets you a deflection bonus to AC and CMD equal to 2, +1 per 5 CL when concentrating on earth geomancing. You can spend a spell point as a standard action to make that buff last, but you need to be standing on proper material. Cool one! Granulation is the first of 3 (geomancing) talents, and lets you create sand or loose dirt as an instantaneous effect (remember, geomancing has a default action economy cost of a standard action), and the cost may be reduced by breaking up rock; additionally, this may be used in conjunction with other geomancing abilities (cool!) and can be sued to create weakened areas and collapse structures. Two thumbs up!

Sandstone gets its own table and lets you transform sand into stone, or sheathe dirt or sand in stone, and yes, you may encase targets, who get a proper save. The talent also accounts for size categories, codifies escape methods properly, etc. – in short, this is the cool, and complex rules-operation I enjoy seeing in files like this. Two thumbs up! Unearth, finally, is a great means to combat burrowing or earth gliding targets.

The pdf also features 5 spellcrafted spells (all clocking in at 2 spell points): Bless/Corrupt Earth is a curse that lets you enrich the soil and fortify plants – or cripple harvests etc. – and yep, for years. This requires Forge Earth and the Fate sphere, which seems appropriate. Earth Surfing requires telekinesis, and allows you to ride the earth, gaining a significantly improved, scaling speed. – or the spell can move the caster, even while immobilized. Mudslide also has the water tag and works better in conjunction with Create Water, and is a nice AoE trick that causes bludgeoning damage and employs the Buy rules. Sand barrier needs the Protection sphere, and, bingo, is pretty much what it says on the tin – the interaction with AoE effects is nice. (Nitpick: Formatting not perfect.) Stalagmite needs the Destruction sphere with crystal blast and acts as a dust storm, and as a swift action, make the dust form piercing damage-dealing stalagmites that also impale targets. The pdf also features the rules for cave-ins and collapses.

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

Derfael Oliveira’s expansion for the earth sphere rocks. … I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun.

Kidding aside, the material is complex, interesting and offers some evocative tricks. Less basic than e.g. the file for fire, this presents a couple of intriguing and creative options that I very much consider to be worthwhile for pretty much every fan of earth-themed abilities. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

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 this one with 7 different basic talents, all of which have the fire tag:

Dragonlung nets you a 30.-ft-cone or 60 ft.-line breath weapon that deals 1d8 fire damage per two caster levels, Reflex halves. The talent has no prerequisite and no minimum level, and thus could be useless at first level. Additionally, the breath weapon has only a 1d4 round cooldown, but no spell point cost associated. Yeah, not gonna happen anywhere near my game.

Firelord enhances CL for the purpose of magical fire size creation – and yes, there is an expansion of the fire size-table included, accounting for Colossal+ to Colossal+++ - cool! Reflash lets you relight nonmagical fires in the vicinity as an immediate action in a 15.-ft.-burst. This may reignite targets. Ride the Flames (also tagged with spirit) nets you a clumsy fly speed that basically duplicates rocket jumps plus gliding down. Smokewalk (also tagged with spirit) lets you walk on fire and byproducts, and sink in them – and you get a bit of fire resistance and may see through the like. Wreath of Flames (also tagged with spirit) allows you to use your immediate action to hit a target within your reach that hits you with an attack or combat maneuver take CL fire damage, Reflex save halves. Personally, I think that should specify that reach weapons don’t extend the wreath, but your mileage may vary. Trail Blaze (tagged as geomancing) allows you to clear a path through difficult terrain AND make critters in the area when cleared exhausted on a failed save. Neat!

We get two advanced talents: Phoenix Resurgence (fire, spirit) lets you blow up when disabled or dying as an immediate action that costs 3 spell points, returning battered, but with temporary hit points. Cool! Wildfire offers for an expensive (3 spell points), vast (1000 ft. + 100 ft. per CL) blast circle of flame.

The pdf sports 3 feats: Heat Absorption builds on Feed on Fire, and improves the healing and now nets temporary hit points over the maximum. (Can’t be cheesed, base ability costs spell points); Phoenix Flight makes the aforementioned jetpack-like flight of Ride the Flames to hover etc. Nice. Luminous Flames is a dual sphere feat that makes create fire geomancing also double as a glow. (this is not properly formatted).

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

Derfael Oliveira’s fire expansion is a solid offering; while Dragonlung should imho be relegated to the realm of advanced talents (being OP for a lower-powered game), it is, as a whole, a solid offering. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This Starfarer’s Codex-installment clocks in at 17 pages, one page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content – though there is something to note here: When you open this pdf, you’ll notice that there isn’t much text per page – some textboxes are hovering before impressive full-color artworks (drawn by GrandFailure – who is anything but that, and some stock pieces), but the primary focus here is on the artworks, with text boxes dropped in where they make sense. Now, usually I’d complain seriously about that, but the smart folks at Rogue Genius Games have a condensed, artless version as well. This second iteration clocks in at 9 pages, offering densely-presented 6 pages of content, with flavortext highlighted in purple boxes, making that version easy and efficient, if less aesthetically-pleasing to use. In short: We get a beautiful pdf, and an efficient one, we get to have our cake and eat it, too. Nice.

So, multiclassing. This pdf does offer so-called ThemeTypes: These ThemeTypes count as your character’s theme, and also as the archetype for the first class you take levels in. These ThemeTypes also prevent a character from later taking levels in the class corresponding to the ThemeType in question. Abilities gained by these sometimes denote “Archetype” in the brackets; these are gained when you reach the listed level in the class that you took levels in, while those marked as “Theme” are gained regardless of the levels or combinations thereof. Simple and elegant.

All right, so the envoy ThemeType gains Bluff or Diplomacy as class skill, or +1 if you already have both in one of them, and may use the Bluff skill bonus as Diplomacy and vice versa. So, first level ability is basically a theme-knowledge style offering. At 2nd level, the archetype ability would be Expertise for one skill chosen from a list, using a d4 as expertise die, which may be treated as a static +1 bonus if you already have an insight bonus of +4 or better to the applicable skills. This list is expanded by the Theme ability at 6th level. The archetype ability at 4th level nets you a first level envoy improvisation, and you gain another 6th level. 9th level yields an expertise talent, and the 12th and 18th level ability, designated as “Theme”, yield a 1st or 4th level improvisation, with the 18th level ability alternatively allowing for the selection of a 6th level improvisation. Also at 12th level, there is an archetype ability that increases the expertise die to 1d4+1, and 18th level yield one archetype option for 1d6+1, as well as a third skill for the expertise die. The second one, fyi, is gained via a theme ability at 6th level.

So that is the basic design paradigm – you get abilities, some of which are tied to class, and some to character progression, and to gain the most out of a given Theme Type, you will want to stick with the ThemeType’d class. Powerlevel-wise, the collective of theme-designated abilities amount to approximately the potency of a theme. Mechanics get two ThemeTypes – one for drones and one for the exocortex. Drone specialists get theme knowledge, a basic drone at 2nd level, which is class level -1, maximum 3rd. This is tweaked at 4th, 6th and 9th level; slightly odd: Both improvements (Archetype and Theme) are identical and worse than the 9th level improvement; I assume that these account for multiclassing and optional choice, but it seems odd; the 18th level ability being worse than previous ones makes me think that some of these may have been intended to be cumulative. Or, well, there’s a chance that this tries to account for the fact that not all levels of replacement abilities are equal. Beyond that, we have one 8th level or lower mechanic trick to modify drones, and the repair drone trick at 6th level. All in all, I probably wouldn’t take this one.

The exocortex option is a bit more straightforward, netting you longarm or heavy armor proficiency (or Weapon Focus, if you already have them), basic versions of combat tracking and a 1/day reroll of a skill check to recall knowledge while not in combat. This one does a good job at presenting a lite version of the excocortex. The Mystic ThemeType nets you up to 4 0-level spells (at will), 3 1st level spells (3 slots), 3 2nd level spells (2 slots), 2 3rd level spells (2 slots, has a cut-copy-paste typo) and 1 4th level spell known (1 slot) over the course of its progression. It also nets you healing touch or mind link via the 6th level theme ability and connection at 12th level, but only to the 1st level connection power, with the 3rd level connection power unlocked at 18th level via a Theme-ability.

The operative’s ThemeType’s trick attack doesn’t cause additional damage, but does render the target flat-footed against the attack, though 6th level yields you a +1d8 for every 3 character levels there. Otherwise, we have exploits and edges. Solid. The Solarian ThemeType nets stellar mode, and at 4th level, black hole or supernova; 6th level nets solar manifestation of a 1st level solarian, which improves to that of 6th level solarian with a class level = character level -6. The verbiage is slightly confusing, but correct. 18th level improved solar manifestation further, and beyond that, we have a few solarian revelations available over the course of the ThemeType.

The soldier ThemeType nets you a proficiency from the get-go, Weapon Focus at 2nd level, Toughness at 4th, and the 1st level fighting style ability at 6th level., with the 5th and 9th level abilities clocking in at 12th and 18th level via the theme abilities of the ThemeType. Beyond that, we have bonus feats, a gear boost and a bonus to BAB if your BAB is less than class level, or to BAB made with full attacks when it’s equal to class level.

The technomancer ThemeType, finally, nets you up to 4 0-level spells (at will), 3 1st level spells (3 slots), 3 2nd level spells (2 slots), 2 3rd level spells (2 slots) and 1 4th level spell known (1 slot) over the course of its progression, as well as up to 3 magic hacks, which first must be chosen from the 2nd level ones (6th level theme ability), then from 2nd or 5th level hacks (12th level theme ability), or also from 8th level hacks (18th level theme ability).

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level and slightly above that on a rules-language level. Layout is very distinct as noted in the beginning – it is gorgeous or functional, depending on the iteration you consult. Big kudos for providing the printer-friendly version! The pdfs both only have a single bookmark, which makes navigation slightly less comfortable than it should be.

So, ThemeTypes. What can I say, I really enjoy the concept, and this is an incredibly dense book to absorb. The rules-language is complex and executed with the panache that we expect from Owen K.C. Stephens. That being said, I am pretty sure that something, somewhere in the drone mechanic ThemeType has gone awry; it also looks like it genuinely should be a bit…I don’t know…better? Considering what you give up, the benefits there don’t really make up for it. I also wasn’t particularly smitten by the solarian. While arguably one of the harder classes to ThemeType, I don’t think the option presented scratches the amateur solarian angle it tried to scratch. That being said, as a whole, I consider this to be worthwhile checking out, and the concept of ThemeTypes is certainly one that warrants further exploration. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This installment of the ship-supplements released under the Galaxy Pirates brand clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so the light cruiser is a tier 5 Large destroyer with average maneuverability and turn 2, using an Arcus Ultra power core and sporting a signal basic drift engine. With mk 4 armor and defenses, we get AC and TL 18, and weaponry-wise, we get light plasma cannons and torpedo launchers forward, a gyrolaser on the port-side and starboard-side, a coilgun turret and no weaponry on the aft. The ship comes with a proper array of expansion bays. As far as crew is concerned, the engineering may not be stellar compared to e.g. the blackwind sepulcher, but the pilot? Top-notch. The ship does come with a Computers table that allows PCs to deduce facts about the ship model, and the pdf does feature a brief elaboration on the ship’s details.

The supplement also comes with an AMAZING full-color map of the ship, which explains all components of the ship, from airlocks to the placement of the weaponry. (Very minor nitpick: The map references a rail cannon, instead of a plasma cannon; it’d have been nice to see the map reference the weapons of the ship directly, but those are details.)We also get a great, handout style one-page version of the ship’s artwork, and a full page of paper stand-in minis you can print out, and the ship comes with a full, already filled-in ship sheet for your convenience. Huge plus!

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

I really like this ship by Paul Fields and Jim Milligan. The ship map, the sheet – this is ready to go, fun and has some customization options left in the PCU-budget for players. All in all, a fun, well-wrought ship, this gets 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This game based on the VsM Engine clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so, as far as the tone is concerned, Vs. Moon Men taps into a genre I absolutely adore – early silver screen alien panic classic cinema and science-fiction; you know it – the classic 50s, 60s and, to an extent, 70s-aesthetic, still deeply infused with a sense of optimism and naïveté, where good and evil were distinct and clear; of course, chances are that you may be more familiar with e.g. the contemporary games like XCOM, movies like Mars Attacks! (which heavily quotes the tropes of the classics), series like Futurama and the like; if you haven’t seen Ed Wood’s cult classic “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, I wholeheartedly suggest you do so at your earliest convenience. Same goes if you haven’t read or listened to “War of the Worlds.” (And yes, we get a slew of suggestions regarding themes in the beginning!)

You see, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin were captured by the Moonies – and Collins’ warnings feel on deaf ears. And now, we have a full-blown invasion on our hands! By golly, it’s time to show those aliens what a good ole’ hot-blooded American (or human of another nation) is capable of!

To play, you just need at least 2 decks of card, pencils, and the character sheet included in the download. You choose a name, a biography, and you have 4 attributes: Offense, Defense, Metal, Physical and Social. Offense and Defense are for defending and attacking in combat. The other three attributes are used for all other types of situation resolutions that might crop up. At the start of the game, you get a pool of 5 values to assign to these attributes: 6, 4, 4, 3, 3. You also tick off a role of 4 – brains, face, heart and muscle are suggested, though it should be noted that these are explicitly NOT tied to the attributes. As for customization, you can choose up to 4 good gimmicks, but you have to take a bad gimmick for every good gimmick you take. Want to play a veteran of the war in Korea? Take the appropriate gimmick, but giving the character some sort of PTSD-ish bad gimmick might make sense. Some gimmicks are role-exclusives and denote as such in the name, though, provided the Moon Master (the term used for the GM) allows it, they may be taken by other characters. Being a mechanic, having medical training, being athletic, etc. – quite an array of stuff. On the bad gimmick side, we have allergies, being pretty ugly, haunted by bad luck, being a coward or obsessed about a keepsake, etc.

After choosing your gimmicks, you put down your Health – unless modified by a gimmick, your starting Health is 10. The core mechanic will be familiar to veterans of VsM: You draw a number of cards equal to the related attribute (so, if you have a Social score of just 3 and attempt to sweet-talk someone, 3 cards) and compare the value of the highest card with the TV (target Value) of the challenge. If it’s of equal or greater value, you succeed. The supplement does offer variant rules here: A critical failure/success via two jokers, and a suggestion of using a Tarot deck. (Minor nitpick: I noticed typos in that box.) Yes, you can card-count the game. It’s intended that way. But if your game consists of serious card-sharks, there is a die-based variant noted as well. Jacks are 11, Queens 12, Kings 13. Aces are 14, but for damage purposes, Aces count as 1.

The game differentiates between 5 standard TVs, ranging from easy (TV 4) to impossible (TV 14/Aces); when two or more characters cooperate on an action, the character who draws the highest amount of cards draws their allotment, + 1 per assisting character. Opposed actions are resolved by comparing who draws the higher card; if that ties, the base attribute determines the victor; if that also is tied, initiative order wins; if the contest is between players, the one closest to the Moon Master’s left wins, and ties between PC and NPC in such an extreme case? They’re resolved in the PC’s favor. There is a variant rule I’d highly recommend: Variable successes. If you beat a TV with more than one card, you beat it in a better way; and yes, the game provides feedback and guidance to resolve this. As an aside, this base engine also allows the Moon master to set up complex challenges that require a sequence of successful draws over the course of multiple turns, etc. But you’ll find that out sooner rather than later.

As for combat, turns have not fixed duration and may range from seconds to hours, depending on the requirements of the scene(s) in question; initiative is resolved by drawing cards, and a surprise is resolved as a free attack. Movement can be, depending on circumstances, be handled in a purely narrative manner (perhaps, supplemented by checks?) or on a map, where the attribute related denotes the number of units (like 5 ft.-squares, or 30 ft.-squares, or hexes…) your character can traverse per round. The default would be 6 feet (~2 meters) per unit, which is actually a pretty realistic measurement for quick gun fights and the like.

Attacks are resolved in two ways: In melee, you draw Offense number of cards, using the enemy’s Defense attribute as the TV; in ranged combat, you compare Offense with either the target’s Defense, or with the range value – vs. Moon Men knows 5 ranges, and over 24 ft./8m away requires an ace to hit, which is very punitive and obviously does not represent ranged combat expertise, though it does fit with the aesthetic, where someone punches out an alien with bare hands, while they manage to miss a barn door at nigh point-blank range. This is easy enough to modify, but it’s something to bear in mind.

If you managed to hit the target, you draw one card for each attack card that managed to get past the target’s Defense attribute as the TV. The card you draw is then compared to the “damage cap” of the attack. Each card that has a value equal or less than the damage cap deals 1 Health point damage. (This is the reason aces count as 1s for damage!) Some weapons do have a base damage, which means they always do the base damage, at the very least. Once you reach 50% Health, you take -1 to all attributes; -2 at 1 point of Health remaining, and at 0 or fewer? Sorry, you’re dead. The game does have an optional rule for death at -1 Health or below. A full night of uninterrupted rest (8+ hours) lets you regain 1 Health; if a medical professional tends to the wounds, the medic may draw a card. If it’s a Hearts card, the patient regains an additional Health. Painkillers, First Aid equipment and the like further helps.

Environments can also impose complicating modifiers, which apply to the number of cards you may draw: These range from -3 to +3.

As for equipment: Mechanically, there may not be much difference between second-hand clothes and a dapper suit, but the game does caution that folks are bound to react differently to how you, for example, look. Sample values for clothes, living space, transportation, weapons, etc. is provided; weapons and the like note their damage caps, whether they are two-handed, range multipliers, etc. The engine manages to coax out a surprising amount of differentiation out of the rules light game. We account, for example, for concealable and breaking weapons, and moonie weaponry does offer special rules: Electrode guns knock out targets and only can be fired at point-blank range, for example.

The book also does note means to advance characters, roughly presented in order of hierarchy: Bonus cards, good gimmicks, attribute improvement, removing bad gimmicks – you get the idea. Fear checks are resolved by using mental to compare it to a combined Offense and Defense of the triggering adversary. As far as NPCs are concerned, the system notes the concepts of Nemesis enemies and hordes; we also get a few good and bad gimmicks for NPCs, and some sample NPC stats that you can use for common roles.

Now, since vs. Moon Men has a slightly more action-driven slant than other VsM-games, we do get vehicle rules: Vehicles have a crew value (number of characters required to operate); Handling comes usually as a penalty ranging from -1 to -4, which denotes the penalty for actions that the vehicle is not designed to do. Movement denotes the units it can move in one turn; Health specifies how much damage it can withstand, and Armor reduces the damage cap of a weapon – if it reduces a damage cap to 0, the weapon can’t hurt the vehicle. The use of vehicles is simple and codified properly, and we do get TVs for vehicle repair. A diverse array of vehicles are provided, ranging from horses to tanks, planes, flying saucers, commercial pleasurecrafts (speedboats etc.) – you get the idea.

After this, Moon Masters get some insight into the invaders from the moon – good moon men gimmicks (and a bad one), and we do get 6 sample moon man stats for various rules. After this, we take a look at the assumptions of the game, which is, per default, that of terrestrial freedom fighters, though the system certainly can account for other modes of play. The default starting point would be Anytown, USA, which notes e.g. “The Bar”, “The University”, etc. – it is, basically, a means for the Moon master to think of the standard small town USA backdrop that we’ve come to expect from the genre. We conclude this pdf with 2 pages of different adventure hooks, some of which are truly and genuinely interesting.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, good on a formal level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, mirroring classified files, with a type-writer like font and a blend of old-timey photography and artworks that have been modified to elicit the illusion of a concise whole. This is an aesthetically-pleasing pdf. The pdf comes with a ton of nested bookmarks that render navigation comfortable and painless.

I really liked Jason Owen Black’s “Vs. Moon Men.” While I do maintain that it isn’t as encompassing as the supremely impressive Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, currently my favorite VsM Engine game, it does offer quite a few components that allow for some depth in the system. Now, granted, mathematically, not all of them always make sense, as some players will point out, but that frankly isn’t the point of the engine in the first place. The benefit of the VsM Engine has always been that you can explain it to non-gamers in less than a minute, and start playing after less than 5 minutes; and indeed, character generation is quick and painless. Vehicle rules add some depth, and while I would have loved to see a bit more regarding alien vessels and adversaries, this remains a fun and easy to pick up game. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

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 (including a glyph key that denotes descriptors), 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of new bardic masterpieces for the unchained bard, so let’s take a look!

We begin with two different level 1 masterpieces – Song of the People’s Revolt is performed with percussion, song or wind instruments. This one is a 60 ft.-spread and nets all affected allies a teamwork feat you possess; accompaniment allows for the granting of multiple ones. Triple Time also can be performed with these three, and nets allies in a 60-ft.-radius gain scaling bonuses to all movement speeds.

There are three new third level masterpieces. Endless Waltz, for dance and string, has a range of 30 ft. and nets an ally scaling fast healing, and also boosts healing of the ally and the bard. Pageant of the Peacock is associated with acting and dancing regarding muses, and affects a 60 ft.-spread. It allows you to better impersonate folks of higher standing, may be maintained indefinitely, and allows you to sacrifice spell slots to gain skill bonuses for skills that’ll help you maintain the ruse. The Rheumy Refrain is mind-affecting and has acting and singing as muses; it can affect a target with a phantom illness that is properly codified as a disease effect.

3 bardic masterpieces that are unlocked at 7th level can be found – the Lullaby of the Ancient ties into the fantastic Everyman Minis: Sleeping Rules and imposes the drowsy condition or renders targets asleep. This is a mind-affecting compulsion. Requiem for the Fallen Heroes is universal as far as muses are concerned, and is a mind-affecting emotion glamer. The masterpiece affects a 60 ft.-spread. One target perceives their allies dragged to the pits, and thus, this interrupts teamwork feats, flanking, etc. and make the target behave as though alone. Song of the Stone Bearers triples the carrying capacity of the affected allies within 60 ft. It’s associated with Percussion, singing and wind instruments, muse-wise.

The pdf also contains two different 11th level bardic masterpieces: The House of Imaginary Walls is associated with the muses of acting and comedy and lets you pantomime invisible walls. It’s pure evil! Exterminate!!! Kidding aside, the masterpiece nets you basically wall of force-like terrain control. And no, it’s not illusory – it’s mind-affecting. The Legato Piece of the Planar bargain is available for all muses, and lets you choose a plane or demiplane and call a random outsider, unless you can provide a token of a specific outsider. Called targets are indifferent, and you basically strike a planar ally-ish deal. Finally, there is the 15th level masterpiece, the Aria of the Drifting Soul, with the muse (here not properly bolded) being keyboard and singing. It has a 90 ft.-range and affects the target with reverse gravity.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column full-color standard, and the full-color artwork provided is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

David N. Ross’ bardic masterpieces herein are interesting in plenty of instances, and they certainly are useful; the rules are precise and play well with the unchained bard. At the same time, the masterpieces herein left me less excited than I hoped I’d be – quite a few just offer a tweak on classic spells or abilities, and imho, it’d have been nice to see them do a bit more unique things. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

These modules clock in at a total of 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by a patreon, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Why plural? Well, this one contains two adventures: The eponymous “The 13th Skull”, intended for 6 level 4 characters, and the second one, “The Balance Blade” is intended for 2nd level PCs. Both are written by none other than Joseph Goodman. Beyond these two modules, the pdf offers a supplemental article penned by Daniel J. Bishop – it covers 3 pages and depicts seven magical skulls. The first of these is massive and basically a terrain feature that adds some risk, but also boons to PCs – a major feature you can add to a dungeon. Grandmother’s Skull is interesting, in that it represents a means to converse with a maternal ancestor’s spirit and draw power from it; this is done via a spell check, though spellburn is not per se possible to modify the result; the benefits can be rather potent, but are countermanded by the nature of the ancestor – they have agendas, you know, and 7 sample true natures may be revealed if you really botch the check.

The Lead Skull of the Lost allows PCs to bring fallen comrades back to life, but there is a d30-table of complications that range from beneficial to, well, not, and returning with a magical skull instead of your own? (The item knits flesh over it…) It does change you, you know… The Living Skull of the Emerald Enchanter comes with full stats and makes for a nice addition to the modules featuring that villain. Also fully statted: The Iron Stag, a stag’s skull that allows you assume stag-form. Finally, there is a frontal bone that may be used to scry, provided you accept the spellburn required, and there’s a monkey’s skull atop a staff that is really loud – but which, once in a while, does provide genuinely useful intel…only the players can determine whether that one is worth the risk of using it…

As for the modules themselves: “The 13th Skull” can be undertaken by your average, well-rounded group without much hassle; “The Balance Blade”…well, we’ll get to that later. Both modules have in common that they sport the read-aloud text you’d expect. The former does offer a couple of local legends that are important to contextualize the proceedings in the module.

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

..
.
All right, only judges around? Great! The module begins when the PCs watch an execution – but then, things turn weird: The decapitated head of the culprit turns on the very face of the duke, and the executioner unveils a silver skull, gleaming in the hot sun! The executioner grabs the Duke’s daughter with the help of a pterodactyl, and makes off with her! The duke offers a sizeable reward – so yeah, it’ll be up to the PCs to explore the ducal tombs and hopefully save the maiden fair. If they are smart, they’ll ask around first – for it is said that the duke’s family only received their status and wealth courtesy to a horrible pact with the Silver Skull.

Thus, the PCs enter the ducal mausoleum, and the PCs will soon be accosted by tomb shadows, and the skeletons of the ancestors? Well, guess what, they are missing body parts! Astute PCs will notice that the missing parts would make for a full skeleton – not accounting for the universally absent skulls. Ultimately, the PCs will find a secret part of the complex, hidden in the 13th sarcophagus, leading into a massive cavern, where a subterranean river contains an open gate into the lower planes, a hole in the water; the missing bones have been assembled, and a massive pillar, smack in the middle of the river. Several types of devils and the like will be fought, and there are two tasks here: For one, deal with the silver skull seeking to fulfill the infernal bargain – it makes for a deadly boss that smart players may have an edge. The daughter, though? That’s another thing: The PCs can find the Book of Planes, which allows them to travel some planes (a nice trip to the plane of water, for example) and save the damsel from her infernal captor, a barbed devil. Here’s a big issue: The barbed devil has a huge chance of killing off the duke’s daughter with AoE attacks, and the module implies that quick PCs can save her while she’s bound etc.

The issue? We have no idea regarding the dimensions of the room. How far away from the daughter the PCs manifest, and thus, it’s very much unclear how big the chance to save her should be. The combat is laid out as a tactical encounter in a feature-less plane (that is not featured on the map), but fails to specify the spatial relationship between players, adversary and captive, making the most crucial component of the pdf subject to judge fiat, and not in a good way. This is easily the weakest aspect of this otherwise cool, short module, and the only instance that simply doesn’t seem to be fair.

The second module, “The Balance Blade”, comes with the caveat that it works best as a convention game. I’d add that, imho, it ONLY works as a convention game and doesn’t really have a good reason for working as it does. The module is about claiming a legendary artifact, the Balance Blade, for the wizard’s patron. It also requires all alignments to be there; and some prep-work for index cards and stickers that affect the penultimate encounter. I’ll get to that later. So, the complex has components that require certain alignments to pass, and since a rather deadly and mechanically interesting chaos beast is right there in the beginning, unlucky groups that lose required alignments could be locked out of the module right then and there. This is doubly odd, as the challenge posed by the module doesn’t require the alignment component to make the material work; this is solely an arbitrary choice made for the sake of emphasizing alignments.

Aforementioned index cards btw. influence the shape that PCs see from a succubus, and the module encourages PCs going PvP and acting in-game…which does make sense, but at the same time – why doubt your colleagues in a game, where shapechangers are a staple? To quote the module: “For example, when chaotic creatures attack the spider-demon, neutral characters will see their allies striking a child and should react accordingly!” That may work with strangers at a convention. At a homegame, where everybody knows and trusts each other? Where PCs have played with one another for multiple adventures? Not gonna work. At least, I have no idea how to make that reliably work. After walking through an impressive, vast tomb of the last colossus, the PCs will claim the Balance Blade, only to have the wizard/patron go full-blown evil moustache-twirler and attack the others. The reasoning of the patron makes no sense (why kill the allies of the wizard, who have been so great helping the patron’s pawn?), the wizard can’t be saved (DC 30 Will save to resist the patron), etc. This is just frustrating and sucky in any context that is not a convention game, and it’d seriously infuriate me, regardless of who I’d be playing. Considering this very specific context, the lack of pregens is another downside here. This is easily the worst module I’ve read for DCC so far, and frankly, I wouldn’t judge this as a convention either. There are plenty of better options out there.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, and good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Goodman games’ two-column b/w-standard, and features plenty of nice b/w-artworks. The b/w-cartography, as always, is very good, but lacks both a player-friendly version, and in the first module, a map for the most tactical combat in the whole module, for the one combat where positioning REALLY matters, is genuinely a matter of life and death. The pdf version sports basic bookmarks for chapter-headers.

Okay, weird. Usually, Goodman Games’ DCC-modules tend to have something that draws me in, and while “The 13th Skull” has a great premise, a cool, small complex to explore and some evocative ideas, it does fall short in a very crucial encounter. While the handout of a certain book is nice, I couldn’t help but feel like a proper map would have been better there. “The Balance Blade”, to me, is an abject failure that railroads the PCs and their agenda in some seriously sucky ways, that is needlessly meta in its mechanics, and that, ultimately, represents my least favorite DCC-module, regardless of publisher, to date. I seriously HATE it. I don’t just dislike it, I actually HATE it. It represents so many contrivances and things that I loathe in fantasy books, and that never worked well in commercial modules. I can see it work for very specific groups, but I can’t ever see it reward you properly for the amount of prep-work it requires. Daniel J. Bishop’s skulls, finally, and thankfully, I might add, manage to end this one on a higher note.

How to rate this? Well, this is one of the few DCC-modules where I’d advise in favor of skipping it. “The 13th Skull” isn’t bad, but neither is it brilliant; it’s a solid offering for completionists, but you’re better off with pretty much almost every one of the other DCC-modules Goodman Games released. Compared to e.g. the fantastic “People of the Pit”, this falls short in a ton of ways, with “The Balance Blade” being imho wasted wordcount that “the 13th Skull” could have used to further develop its cool planar angle. All in all, my final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This installment of the Pop Culture Catalog-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, in case this is your first Pop Culture Catalog-installment, the first page recaps the elegant fandom rules the series employs; since I’ve explained those a couple of times now, please consult my reviews for the older installments in the series.

All righty, the first section of this Pop Culture Catalog installment features 8 different wellness service providers: As before, these do offer a price modifier, denote the locations where they can be found, and notes services provided, as well as individual fandom perks. But what can characters do to relax? Well, you could for example go for an aroma therapy by Aromatic Innovations, in their Scentsory Park. (Two bonus points for that pun!) From Trihive Fusion to raspberry Delight and Lady of the Night, the scents do sound delicious, and the company purportedly has been testing robotic massage chairs with aromatic fragrance dispensers. The perk is actually pretty cool – it nets you +2 to scent-based Perception checks and even nets you blindsense (scent) with a 5 ft.-range.

Chalbarez Springs Spa was originally created by the messianic tengu figure imijol River – the story has it, that a natural material on the planet, vergonium carbonate, while not detrimental to tengus, does cause vertigo in most races, and that Imijol’s meditation pointed towards a spring that cleansed the dust from the air, making this place a publicly-available, medicinal place constructed for the people – though more privacy can be bought. Fans of the place may benefit from a bonus to saves vs. the sickened condition and diseases. The E.Z. Exfoliation Services was originally made by a mechanoi as the most efficient way to clean swiftly indeed, making them efficient for workaholics. Speaking of which…I’d totally be a customer! Anyhow, the focus on robotics of this chain’s establishments means that you either gain an insight bonus to Computers and Engineering, or an enhancement bonus to saves vs. technological items and creatures with that subtype.

Re: Nufriend Massage is a homely massage therapy chain founded by a retired skittermander baseball star (which makes so much sense! Oh yeah, and SKITTERMANDERS SHOULD BE CORE.), and the manypalm massage style, plus helpful guidance really helps…staff is encouraged to go for degrees. Yep, this is an actually good company. Can we have those IRL, please? Being a fan of the place does make you harder to demoralize, and provides a bonus to saves vs. emotion and fear effects. Sarvatova’s Seven is obviously tied to the resort introduced in the third Pop Culture Catalog – it’s a luxury spa based on the seven mythical springs. While the magical springs are only made available to the public in a diluted manner. Being a fan here allows you to reroll a save (you must state that in advance) and you can only do so again after spending Resolve to regain Stamina in a 10-minute rest.

The Stellar Vortex River Bath-House consists actually of a network of single bath house that employ hundreds of miles of force fields to transport millions of gallons of water along sight-seeing tracks, making this indeed a decadent and truly wondrous locale. The fandom helps Piloting in the region. Uramesh Ever After caters almost exclusively to…UNDEAD! Hey, just because you’re dead doesn’t mean that you can’t look after yourself, right? From maggot-bathing to similar, strange techniques, this one is pretty cool and macabre – and yep, I’d try that. Also, exposure helps fortify vs. death effects and the abilities of undead creatures, including a reroll. Wild Side Hygienics is all about wellness for less human-like species, offering services like grooming, feather preening, etc., and as such, being a fan helps you interact with species like kitsune, ysoki, etc., and you get one bonus language.

The pdf also defines types of wellness services (bath house, onsen, sauna and spa) and then goes into details regarding the actual services: Acutherapy services like acupressure and acupuncture are explained, and different forms of aroma therapy can be explained. What about controlled acid baths in oozes? Flame baths for those inured to fire, necromantic baths – this section is inspiring. And fyi: This book does offer rules to reward PCs for taking care of hygiene. Ultrasonic baths, body peels, nanodentistry – from the humble classics to choice deeply infused with the aesthetics of Starfinder, this is a great read.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with a great array of full-color artworks in Jacob Blackmon’s signature style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas’ Pop Culture Catalog-series is quickly graduating to one of my favorite Starfinder-series: Oozing cool ideas, we focus on some much-needed good times for characters, all while still offering a plethora of creative and cool ideas that retain their value beyond the confines of the system. This one is a great continuation of that tradition, and works perfectly in conjunction with the cruises/resort-installment. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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5/5

This installment of Legendary Games‘ class rewrites clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We start this supplement with the break-down of the cavalier rewrite, and oh boy, does the class need one, so what does the Legendary Cavalier bring to the table? Well, chassis-wise, the class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per modifier, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all types or armor as well as shields, minus tower shields, and full BAB plus good Fort- and Will-saves. The class begins play with mount, which gets Light Armor Proficiency – but in an important caveat, it does treat Light Armor Proficiency as share spells, which will allow for plenty of companion modifications. It’s a small line, but an excellent one. Another small, but important caveat: The legendary cavalier’s mount, should the old one die, does gain the full ability array and is not basically nigh-useless until the next level attained, so yeah, the base mount ability has been improved. Additionally, the cavalier gets noble steed at first level, which translates to a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls with natural attacks at 1st level, which improves by another +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. I like the higher level improvements, but I don’t think the 1st level bonus was required, considering how deadly the mount can already be at first level, but I digress. At 4th level, the mount may ignore difficult terrain while charging and being ridden and 10th level makes this always on while being ridden, not just when charging.

At 6th level, we get the means to treat the mount as smaller, making it more dungeon exploration-friendly (though ladders etc. still remain a problem). Still, kudos! 7th level nets DR 2/- to the mount while riding, which increases by 1 at 11th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Also at this level, we get a crucial ability: “Risky Lunge” – this allows for a move action to only be 5 ft. and count as a charge, but at -2 AC for cavalier and mount. This allows for some seriously wicked reach trickery and unlocks a whole new array of tactical builds that don’t require straight charging into the fray. 13th level makes the mount count as one size category larger for the purpose of natural weapon attacks, and this increase thankfully doesn’t scale with others. At 9th level, as long as the legendary cavalier is within 60 ft. of it and the mount is above 0 hit points, the cavalier gets Diehard and Deathless Initiate, regardless of prerequisites, which upgrades at 17th level to apply even if the cavalier would be dead! And yes, this allows for healing back up. Pretty awesome. Cavalier’s charge, mighty charge and supreme charge are retained, though the latter is moved down one level to 19th level.

12th level nets steed’s parry, which allows the cavalier to expend 2 rounds of commander’s aura as an immediate action to make a Ride check against the incoming attack roll, halving damage and applying it to the mount instead on a success. I usually cringe whenever I read “parry” in class abilities, as most mechanics are plain broken – this one works really well. What is the commander’s aura? I’m glad you asked!

The most obvious change of pace would be the commander’s aura, which may be maintained for 4 + Charisma modifier rounds per day, activated as a move action and maintained as a free action. Every level beyond 1st adds +2 rounds to the aura’s daily allotment. It has 9 different benefits, extends 60 feet (+20 feet at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter) and is correctly codified regarding the types of effect it is treated as. The effects include scaling DR, fast healing, temporary hit points, AC and weapon damage boosts, energy resistance (sonic is an option!), CMB, movement and save bonuses. I LOVE this. Meaningful tactics and round-by-round agenda every single time. Plus, the cavalier is rewarded for not dumpstatting Charisma. (Oh and yeah, benefits may be switched as a swift action, starting at 7th as an immediate action.) This improvement alone makes the Legendary Cavalier already infinitely better than its regular iteration. This is further enhanced at 4th level, where the cavalier gets commander’s shout – this ability allows the cavalier to spend 4 rounds of the ability to grant an ally an additional move action on their turn, but an ally may only benefit from the like once per day, even from different legendary cavaliers (VERY important catch! Kudos!). 10th level nets the option to grant an additional standard action instead, though this can’t be used for spellcasting or SPs – until 16th level. 20th level nets a move and standard action that may be combined into a full-round action. Love it!

That’s not all! At 8th level, the cavalier gets chivalry’s call – a swift action shout that costs 3 rounds of the aura and affects a target in its range, allowing said target to reroll their Will-save, using the cavalier’s Will-save bonus if it’s higher. 10th level unlocks two of the aura benefits at once (no additional cost in rounds). 15th level allows the cavalier to select an ally to move up to their speed or make an attack when they reduce a target to 0 hp or below. And yes, this is bag of kittens proofed. At 18th level, the cavalier may spend 4 rounds of the aura while making an attack to prompt the target to require to save or be stunned for 1 round; additionally, thereafter, for Charisma modifier rounds, the target needs to save to continue attacking the cavalier.

Ähem, where was I? 1st level also nets order, but the engine has been revamped there as well – I’ll get to orders below. Banner is gained at 2nd level, and its improvements have been tweaked to apply on 10th and 18th level instead. Greater banner, at 14th level, has been tweaked – its primary save boost is retained, but instead of a reroll, we have Diehard for allies in range, which fits imho better. At 2nd level, the cavalier gets +1/2 class level to Diplomacy, and 5th level nets the skill unlock for Diplomacy. I know, right? It suddenly feels like you’re looking at a knight, not an armored and mounted murder-hobo! 3rd level nets renown, 8th level great renown and 14th level incredible renown. Minor nitpick – these are social talents, not vigilante talents. 5th level nets a social talent (erroneously called vigilante talent twice) from a list, and 11th and 17th level net another. The capstone, btw. – renown in massive, huge metropolis! (In addition to aforementioned abilities with a more combat-centric application.)

Pertaining orders: The pdf presents 11 orders, and they all have a signature skill. Every cavalier level, the cavalier gets a bonus skill rank and treat said skill as a class skill, with 8th level providing the skill unlock for the signature skill. Oh, and guess what? There is an option for being orderless! And another, important thing: Each order not only comes with a brief flavor text, it also provides a unique application of commander’s aura! The order of the beyond allows, for example, to treat all allied weapons as aligned! Ouch! Temporary skill grants, scaling DR-bypassing, quick and better Survival and Stealth, cavaliers taking ½ damage of allies, and what about allies preventing 5-foot steps and withdraw on a failed save? Better Stealth and demoralizing, etc. also can be found here. In short: The orders have been properly rewired to account for the vastly improved base class engine. Additionally, we get no less than 6 different favored class options for all races, allowing for +1 round, more mount hp, increased movement rate, darkvision, etc.. Liked these!

The class customization is not done! We can also choose two variant proficiency loadouts – one nets you, for example, tower shield proficiency in exchange for ranged martial proficiency, and another allows for exotic weapon use at 1st level. The dual aura ability may be exchanged with challenge if you really want that one back. Instead of the auras and dual aura, you can have weapon training – loss of these doesn’t render the ability useless, due to the follow up abilities. Reduced commander’s aura is also presented here (oddly, thrice – it’s literally the same text, three times. Weird cut copy paste glitch, but doesn’t hurt anyone.) Favored enemy is an option as well. Banner and greater banner may be exchanged for wild empathy, fast movement or fast rider. The renown/court angle may be exchanged for rogue talents, favored terrain or maneuver training; rider’s bond may be replaced with stalwart (not a fan) or uncanny dodge. The charge abilities (beyond the basics) may be exchanged for combat style or martial flexibility. So yeah, you can play brawling hedgeknight, criminal deserters, etc.

The pdf also comes with 11 archetypes: Draconic avenger nets you a drake companion mount (not to be used with Legendary Games’ Wyrmtouched without the feat-chain – kudos for accounting for that!), and the archetype loses the charge/risky lunge array. Dreadnaughts are pretty cool – the class loses the mount, but gets oversized weapons – two-handed weaponry one-handed at first level, intercepting movement, body checks and crashing into targets. This archetype makes you feel like a big, bad colossus dude – basically, the defensive tricks and the like of the mount are integrated into this guy. Really, really cool one, and a resounding success as far as I’m concerned. Firearm soldiers are a straight engine tweak – charges are replaced with a bit of firearm tricks. More interesting would be the houndsmaster, who gets a pair of dogs or wolfdogs that can share a space or “split”, basically tweaking the base companion engine to behave like a conglomerate “lite” version, a splittable entity. I love this. The hounds act as a mount stand-in and allow for some soft crowd control and tactics beyond the regular means that companions offer, and e.g. Combat Reflexes and similar tricks further emphasize this massive engine tweak in a compelling manner, which is particularly suited for darker fantasy games, as the hounds at higher levels can sever limbs when attacking in conjunction – and yep, we get a half-page table that notes the consequences. Minor nitpick: These rules should state loss of ring-benefits, for example, for arms lost, but that is evident from context.

The iron general would be a monk/brawler-like hybrid archetype for unarmed cavaliers. The jungle rider gets a modified proficiency list, can make crooked charges and delays the mount to 4th level, where he gets a more exotic array of creatures to choose from. Masked travelers are a tweak that emphasizes the vigilante-ish angle, losing banner etc. and locking the target into being order-less. Marrow lancers are basically the death knight angle – undead companion (more resilient, less agile), and a fully modified commander’s aura feature that focuses on debuffs, and a more nasty Intimidate focus make this one a great choice for anti-heroes and villains.

Mounted champions presented an interesting thing I seriously did not expect to see: Spheres of Might-synergy! Yep, Legendary Games and Drop Dead Studios synergy? Awesome! This fellow employs the Beastmastery and Warleader spheres, allowing for full Spheres of Might synergy. Nice! (Minor nitpick: The header for Mount (Ex) is not bolded.) The pegasus knight is straightforward, and nets you a neutral winged animal version of Pegasus. The steppe rider gets the chance to fire through wind walls, more mobile mounts (while in full movement), shots that hamper targets, Perception skill unlocks, severing arrows at higher levels – basically, think of these guys as the equivalent of the mighty Mongolian cavalry.

The pdf also includes a 6-level PrC, the lancer, who requires +5 BAB, Mounted Combat and Weapon Focus (lance), 2 skills at 5 ranks to take; the PrC gains ½ Fort-save progression, full BAB-progression, d10 HD, 2 + Int skills per level. Ultimately, this PrC represents a different take on the cavalier concept – namely that of the lance-wielding knight who gets elevated to his position. Renown and several cavalier-ish tricks are gained, emphasizing the journey to knighthood, if you will.

We also are introduced to 7 new feats: Aura Study nets you one additional aura you’d usually lose to reduced commander’s aura. Wait. What? Yep, this ties in, obviously, with the tripled reduced commander’s aura – it is evident that a variant that should provide less auras was intended to be one of the reduction options and got somewhat shafted by the glitch. If you really want a base order’s challenge, you can gain the like via a feat, and e.g. houndmaster can choose wolves. There also is a feat to gain an order’s aura, etc. The magic items section includes a banner enhancer, and weapon property that enhances the aura. Really cool: There is a gem that can be attuned to a companion allows you to bring an attuned companion back from the dead. A bridle that makes targets behave as combat trained can be found, and a saddle allows a critter to use the rider’s Will-save vs. mind-affecting effects. The shared pain saddle, finally, allows for 1/round transferral of pain to the mount, with HD as a cool scaling mechanism.

The book concludes with Arsa Verain, a CR 3 sample Legendary Cavalier, who comes with a detailed background story as well as his mount’s stats. His questing has a personal take – Arsa had feelings for a man called Jerome, who, alas, before Arsa could confess, was seemingly taken away by a mysterious woman – and so he looks for a lost love that may be not even reciprocal. He does come with full boon-notes. (I noticed a missing “l” at one point in the prose there.)

The conclusion to my review can be found here!


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansion books clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the Fate-sphere expansion – what does it offer? First of all, it should be noted that the GM advice chapter provides some advice on material that is supposed to have the curse descriptor. If you wish to add alignment descriptors to your Spheres of Power game, and advice on removing alignment, can be found. While Spheres of Power is thankfully (a huge plus, imho) less alignment-heavy than the base game, this does have a couple of more notes. Similarly, the pdf does cover hero points and their interaction with spheres of power, with the supplement offering a few feats to interact with these and the content within – the most interesting one herein blends words and hero points – more on that later.

The pdf contains 4 archetypes. The grim disciple mageknight replaces the first level talent and 2nd level mystic combat with the Fate Sphere and a bonus curse talent, as well as the neutrality drawback, which may not be bought off. Stalwart and mystic defense are replaced with the option to spend a spell point to reduce the casting duration of a curse by one step, to a minimum of swift action; this improves to allowing for the use of 2 spell points for the reduction of casting time by two steps at 11th level. Instead of marked, we get casting ability modifier as a bonus to attack and damage rolls versus cursed targets.

The second archetype would be the lucky bastard unchained rogue, who gains kismet instead of evasion. This ability is measured in Charisma modifier (minimum 1) points that may be regained on natural 1s on saves, attack rolls, and has the interesting notion to make an attack a gamble – this adds a d3 to the attack roll: On a 1 of the d3, the attack deals minimum damage, on a 2 normal damage, and on a 3, the lucky bastard regains 1 kismet point. The latter ability btw. THANKFULLY has a caveat that prevents abuse via cuddly kittens. Kismet may also not be cheesed prior to combat, as it caps at Charisma modifier. The archetype gets a selection of deeds, which include a custom deed at 2nd level that can negate AoOs, allowing for skirmishing. 4th level further expands that angle, and the risk/reward theme is also exemplified by a standard action strike vs. flat-footed AC that has the chance to deal extra damage, but at the cost of potentially being disarmed. This one is a bit ill-conceived, as it doesn’t specify whether the bonus damage is multiplied on crits. That being said, kudos for catching that e.g. locked gauntlets don’t help – if you can’t drop the weapon, you instead become staggered. Higher levels provide further deeds for use with the kismet engine. All in all, an interesting one.

The ordained hunter inquisitor is a mid-caster using Wisdom, with class level + Wisdom modifier spell points and 1 magic talent per caster level attained. The archetype gets the Fate sphere instead of detect alignment and discern lies, and track is gained at first level and slightly modified. Monster lore and the judgments are replaced with a Wisdom-based variant of the kismet engine noted above, which instead ties in with the Fate sphere for the purposes of gambling for regained points. (And yes, this also has an anti-cheese caveat.) While the engine at the base of this one is thus familiar, the execution is not, for the archetype receives more than a page worth of customary deeds for use with kismet, which include superior defenses against traps, an SR that fluctuates slightly based on kismet pool points, the option to spend kismet to temporarily gain pounce (behind an appropriate level cap), and e.g. high level teleportation tracking. The archetype also comes with a cool high-level replacement for slayer, which helps pinpoint even the most elusive of quarries, and the capstone also does its job. This is a really cool and encapsulates the concept it portrays really well.

The paladin may choose to become a Parzivalian Knight, who is a low caster using Charisma, but with full level + Charisma modifier spell points. Class level is treated as caster level for consecrations and motifs from the Fate Sphere, and the class may Charisma modifier times per day ignore a general drawback when using a consecration – or employ uses of this ability to maintain or create consecrations. This gets rid of lay on hands, though. Similarly, the auras of the base class are modified to instead behave akin to consecrations, which is something I enjoy – more agenda and tactics. Instead of mercies, we have the means to activate some consecrations chosen (more unlocked at higher levels, provided they don’t have a spell point cost to create) 1/round as a free action. The archetype also gets a wildcard motif talent with a cost reduced for self-target use, and the engine actually manages to blend consecration auras and motifs really well. Surprisingly fun archetype!

There is a new arsenal trick for new special weapon qualities (not italicized properly) and class options for investigator, rogue, slayer and unchained rogue to take chance feats. There is also a mystic combat that nets you a cù-sìth black dog.

All right, I’ve already been talking about motifs– so, what are these? Talents with the (motif) tag are cast as a standard action unless otherwise noted, and usually have a range of touch. Will save is the default means to resist them, and they have a default duration of 1 hour per level, but they may be discharged as an immediate action to gain a short-term effect. Motifs don’t stack with themselves. Motifs are based on Tarot cards in style (cool!), but as a nice boon, groups preferring the Harrow deck actually get notes that provide the equivalent cards. Cool! All righty, that out of the way, let us take a look at the talent section herein, shall we? As far as words are concerned, 12 talents are provided – these allow for the use of objects as holy symbols (or to align weapons – kudos for getting the rules right here!!), and there is an interesting one that allows you to reroll, but at the cost of then being haunted by bad luck in the roll’s category. Hand me my trusty bad of kittens – this needed a threat caveat. There also is a nice forced reroll for foes that offers a buff after such a reroll. There is a word forcing targets to classify themselves, and a risky conjunction of fates that allows you to tie stats together, but at the risk of the participants. A debuff word of enmity is solid, but personally, I liked the one that allows for the cloaking of alignment. There is also a really potent one that allows you to place a curse on a weapon, which makes the attack hit automatically. A word that allows for the use of smite etc. versus targets that would usually not be eligible for such abilities is brutal.

The pdf also provides talents that affect the meta-engine, like applying two motifs at once, ranged word use, or make a consecration remain in place, or centered on an object. There also are 5 consecrations, with an aura that can grant healing (spell point cost to make the aura selective). Sounds basically like infinite healing…or does it? Nope, thankfully, the author was smart – it caps at the amount of damage taken since the last turn AND since the creation of the consecration. This is really clever as far as anti-cheese caveats go – two thumbs up! Plainly visible alignment reveals, auras that debuff targets opposed to your alignment, etc. – some fun options here!

The majority of talents are, as noted, based on Tarot cards, and these do have some interesting tricks, like granting a floating pool of insight bonus-y pool points; we have means to gain a boost to a save at the expense of the other saves, better means to work alone, and the option to discharge these for unique benefits adds another level of depth to them. These rank among my favorites here – including for example the trick to discharge the judgment motif to pinpoint all invisible creatures in close range! Or, what about preventing death by empathic transfer to allies (can’t be cheesed?) – there are a lot of neat ones here, and the motif talents are indeed a great addition to this book and the sphere.

The advanced talents are 8 this time around: Long-term consecrations, bind possessing spirits, fortify a target versus a specific death – these really tie well into concepts like preordained destinies, wyrd, etc. when focusing on flavor, and to offer potent options when not doing so. I considered all of these well-placed in the advanced options array. The book also contains two mighty level 9 incantation – petition the fates, which allows you to even prevent natural disasters from wrecking the landscape (cool!), and a brutal, if ill-labeled Ragnarok. The latter is a one-mile kill stuff burst that also calls forth demons. Yeah, don’t see the mythological resonance either. The pdf also includes the new detect divinity ritual.

Beyond these, the book has a pretty neat feat chapter, which introduces, as hinted before, the new (Chance) feats – these feats net you a kismet pool, subject to the limitations as noted before in the archetype section. Doubling healing via kismet (Affecting you as well as the target), channel/kismet synergy…some pretty cool ones, though I’m not the biggest fan of the feat that nets you an additional attack after a critical hit. If it hits, the crit threat range is increased by 1, which explicitly stacks with other critical threat range increases. On the plus side, we get a cool Admixture feat for Fate/Destruction synergy that allows you to replace a second blast with a word, and the Battle dual sphere feat is pretty badass. The book also provides two nice traits, a new casting tradition (cartomancy) and 4 sphere-specific drawbacks.

The book also features a CR 10 Cù-Sìth and the ridiculously potent Mau (mummified cat/master of fate), which clocks in at CR 20!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good for the most part on both formal and rules language levels, with precious few minor nitpicks to complain about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artworks provided are nice and a blend of stock art and new pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Collins’ take on the Fate sphere makes for a fun and interesting expansion for the Spheres of Power-system. The motifs are great and fun, and the options presented herein often allow for meaningful, fun options – which is particularly impressive when considering how the Fate sphere is certainly one of the tougher spheres to get right. As a whole, I can recommend this to fans of the system, particularly those that want to see divine/fate-themed angles realized in unique spheres-related ways. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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4/5

This supplement clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, though it should be noted that these pages are laid out in a horizontal standard optimized for e-readers – that is, letter-size is pretty large.

The city station of Orbi sits on a disk dozens of miles across a city of metal and glass, with a central tower of black supporting an almost translucent platform almost as large as the city itself. Streets of warm laughter and cheer make the city of Orbi, home of the Nomi, a galactic entertainment hub. The city can fly and take to the air sans even a ripple of air, often traveling not only from place to place, but from world to world. Glass platform and city floor form an airtight bubble, allowing for travel through space.

The city of Orbi is thus a great way to travel and with its incredibly complex engine, the small, gregarious and open nomi, perpetually interested in new impulses and cultures, are a central focus of what makes this cosmopolitan place so compelling. As hinted at before, Orbi does regularly land on planets, and thus could potentially act as a place to meet primitive cultures or provide a culture-shock for characters; as a means to transition or marry science-fantasy and sword-and-planet, for example, this rather works well. The engine of the Orbi is mostly magical, and the city houses almost 600.000 inhabitants, 5/6th of whom are nomi. The city station follows a 256-day year, and population is controlled, with deaths and emigrants counted and then, a procreation season at the start of the year. It should be noted that sexual activity is not frowned upon – as long as procreation is limited to the proper season. Non-nomi are not subject to these official regulation, and immigrant passes and the general focus on the arts make the place seem pretty liberal.

The pdf also explains to use the history of the 200-year-old city ship, mentions the good guy in charge (an android soldier/technomancer, mentioned in fluff-only – Nomi aren’t that inclined to long-term planning), the bitter local fruits grown, etc. While there are dissenters that wish the city closed to immigrants (their leader is once again mentioned), the decision is still up in the air. The city, unlike the standard SFRPG engines, is powered by the Bend Engine, a magical device that bends space. Somewhat to my chagrin, we don’t get stats for the bend engine, which is a bit of a pity, as it certainly has a lot of narrative potential and would make for a nice starship upgrade at higher levels of escalation down the plot line. We do get an overview of the outer and inner ring and the movers and shakers to be found there, as well as a brief summary of the 6 flavorful ships noted as pretty much permanent fixtures. Once more, ship stats would have been nice.

The pdf also includes a write-up of the Nomi, who get +2 Charisma and Intelligence, -2 Strength (making them lopsided on the mental side of things), 3 Hit Points, and they are Small humanoids with the Nomi subtype. They have a pair or arms, a pair of legs, and a pair of limbs that can be used as either. Changing modes for these limbs (for wielding/holding more items or base speed increase by 10 ft.) is a swift action. Cool, if not as refined or fun as e.g. The Ydreft from Star Log.EM: Ydreft. Nomi get Skill Focus as a bonus feat, and may 1/day spend an hour to retrain to which skill this feat applies. They also receive a +2 racial bonus on checks made with tools, and o checks to make use or activate unknown technology. (It’d have been nice to get some guidelines what constitutes unknown technology). Beyond these stats, the nomi come with a full proper write-up regarding relations, homeworld, and even the often overlooked “Playing as a Nomi”-section including what other races may think about them. Kudos! Speaking of which: The pdf even provides notes on nomenclature and vital statistics, such as average height, maximum age etc.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a horizontal two-column full-color standard with a blue background and light yellow text. The layout is optimized for e-readers, which means that this isn’t exactly printer-friendly. The pdf has no interior artwork, but does come with proper bookmarks for easy navigation.

Michael McCarthy’s Orbi is a fun city station. I like the take on a traveling good-guy station, and the nomi, while weird, are also rather charming. They are good-guy aliens. One could easily interpret an artist’s city-on-a-hill-metaphor into the place, though that, if intended, is subtextual and something most folk probably won’t notice. All in all, I really enjoyed this supplement. Orbi is a fun place, has quite a lot of adventuring potential, and features some evocative, cool ideas. If anything, it does suffer a bit from the lack of stats for the ships noted, the engine, etc. Mind you, at this low price-point, this is definitely a good purchase, but it could have easily been a fantastic one with a bit more crunch. This is still very much worth checking out, though. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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5/5

This installment of the Everyman Unchained-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, I’ve always felt that teamwork feats are a good idea, but not one that has been implemented well – I wholly concur with the assessment of the introduction, that they cost two feat slots for the benefit of one, which is, to boot, situational. This book thus aims to upgrade teamwork feats to make them useful for characters that don’t have a class feature that makes them more viable. Let’s dive in!

Teamwork feats require that you establish a team: 1/day, you can form one by spending a 10-minute drill. A team can consist of a maximum of half your character level + Charisma modifier or ranks in Profession (soldier) + Charisma modifier, whichever is higher. Once founded, all characters in the team count as teammates, and you can only be in one team at a given time.

-Allied Spellcaster: Adjacent teammates get +2 to CL to overcome SR, +1 to determine spell variables, provided the ally knows how to cast the spell or has it prepared.

-Back to Back: No more flanking bonuses versus two or more teammates adjacent. Sneak still works.

-Improved Back to Back: Teammates can’t be flanked when adjacent.

-Broken Wing Gambit: Feign weakness, incur +2 atk from enemy, to grant all other teammates threatening the target. Can also be used as an immediate action.

-Close Formation: Push past teammates while charging (heck yeah) and the feat properly codifies this movement; also, teammates can end their movement in another mates’ space (max 2 creatures per square); gets mount right. This one is really evocative.

-Combat Medic: No AoO for Heal, take 10 even in dire situations.

-Coordinated Charge: When a teammate charges, charge as an immediate action the same target. Ouch! BAB +10 keeps this in check, fyi.

-Coordinated Defense: +2 to CMD when adjacent, +4 versus targets that are larger. And suddenly, gnomes and halflings look less yummy…

-Coordinated Maneuvers: +2 to CMB; +4 when attempting to grapple or escape a grapple.

-Coordinated Shot: +1 to ranged atk vs. targets threatened by teammate; bonus can increase to +2 when mates are flanking. Accounts for cover.

-Distracting Charge: +2 to atk versus the target of a charge until the start of the charging teammate’s next turn.

-Duck and Cover: Has a confusing glitch; should read that they gain a +2 circumstance bonus to AC and Reflex saves, not “AC against Reflex saves;” additionally, all teammates roll Reflex saves normally and take the highest d20 result rolled for their save. (Cool!) If the difference between the roll used and the own roll is 5+, the character is knocked prone (or staggered, if already prone or being incapable of being knocked prone).

-Improved Duck and Cover: Allows characters with evasion to take part of the damage for their allies. Nice! (Also has an anti-cheese caveat – kudos!)

-Escape Route: When a teammate provokes an AoO for moving out of another teammate’s square, the attacker takes -10 to atk on the AoO. OUCH! Potent, but I like it, as it rewards tactical positioning.

-Ensemble: Bolster performances within 30 ft. as an immediate action, increasing range.

-Feint Partner: Makes the target lose Dex-mod versus the next attack of the teammate as well, provided they’re executed soon enough.

-Improved Feint Partner: Foe feinted provokes AoO from all mates.

-Harder They Fall: Makes teammate count as larger for relevant combat maneuvers; increases aid another bonuses based on teammates threatening the target. Oh, and the opponent takes falling damage when successfully affected by the maneuvers. NICE! Attack on Titan, anyone?

-Improved Spell Sharing: Divide duration of spells targeting familiar, eidolon, etc. evenly.

-Intercept Charge: Immediate action move up to speed, blocking the charge – at the cost of movement next round. Cool!

-Lookout: When 2 or more teammates are adjacent, they get to act in the surprise round, as long as at least one would be able to act. Teammates that’d be unable to act treat their initiative in the surprise round as 1. If all would be able to act, they may take more actions! Brutal! Like it.

-Outflank: Increases flanking bonus to +4.

-Pack Attack: Immediate action 5 –foot step when teammate attacks.

-Pack Flanking: Considered flanking, regardless of position while adjacent.

-Paired Opportunists: Typo: Doubled “Whenever” at the start. +2 to AoOs when teammates are adjacent; also allows a teammate to get an AoO when an ally gets one, regardless of own situation. Thankfully has an anti-chain caveat.

-Seize the Moment: Foe provokes an AoO after being critically hit by teammate.

-Shake It Off: +2 on all saves while adjacent.

-Share Healing: You can divide healing between teammates.

-Shield Wall: 2 or more teammates adjacent increase the shield bonus, depending on shield type. Shield bash does not end this bonus for team members. Also nets cover to adjacent teammates when using a tower shield, making that more viable.

-Shielded Caster: +4 concentration checks while adjacent; also, penalties imposed on concentration are halved.

-Stealth Synergy: When 2 or more mates attempt Stealth with line of sight to each other, use the highest d20 roll.

-Swap Places: Lets you move into a teammate’s space, provoking AoOs; the teammate may move out as an immediate action – no AoOs. Size restrictions apply, though. Cool one!

-Improved Swap Places: No longer provoke AoO, slightly delimits size limitations. Also has a bull rush-y option. Nice.

-Tandem Trip: Roll twice, take better result.

-Target of Opportunity: When a teammate hits a target within 30 ft. of another teammate, that teammate can use an immediate action to shoot the target.

-Team Pickpocket: Bluff to enhance an immediate action Sleight of Hand.

-Wounded Paw Gambit: Ranged weapon follow-up version of Broken Wing Gambit.

The pdf then takes a look at class features: The holy tactician’s battlefield presence is rewired to allow for the exceeding of maximum team size; the drill instructor ability of the strategist cavalier can add up to 4 allies to the team via resource expenditure and a drill; the field instruction of the exemplar brawler can use his action to make allies count as members of the team for a short while. Hunter Tactics make the animal companion not count as a team-member for the purpose of determining maximum. The inquisitor’s solo tactics make all allies count as teammates, but don’t bestow these benefits on the allies…making solo tactics work for the first time really as I envisioned it. The cavalier’s tactician class feature is also rewired to interact with the teammate mechanic.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are still very good on a formal level, with just a few typo-level minor hiccups; on a rules-language level, the pdf is extremely precise and top-notch, with only one autocorrect glitch that could cause minor confusion. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has plenty of really nice artworks, with the expected kitsune focus. The pdf has no bookmarks, and is at the length where I consider that still okay without warranting the penalizing of the final verdict.

What happens when Alexander Augunas, David N. Ross and none other than Owen K.C. Stephens join forces? Awesomeness. The refined versions of the teamwork feats and the engine, which is elegant and only minimally intrusive, are pretty impressive indeed. You could easily slot this into pretty much all ongoing campaigns without much hassle, and the team-building component makes more sense for me as well. All in all, I consider this to be a success indeed, though I did wish we’d have gotten a couple of far out new ones and feats that supplement further the base component of the team-building aspect of the engine. Still, highly recommended - 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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2/5

This Galaxy Pirates supplement comes as two pdfs – one made for Pathfinder, and one for Starfinder. Both pdfs clock in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The voidborn fast zombie presented for PFRPG clocks in at CR ½ and is a take on the infectious fast zombie. Slightly odd – while the type is undead, the statblock still reiterates basically a ton of the undead traits and calls them voidborn traits. This would usually not be an issue, but here, as they’re non-intelligent, the voidborn would usually fall under the undead clause of no natural healing, something that is not explicitly stated by the voidborn traits, which makes me think that they may be intended to heal. The CMD is unfortunately off, and the second attack routine looks like their slam attack may be intended as a secondary natural attack.

The voidborn also features some lore DCs, which is generally something I like – but “Medium Undead Knowledge check DCs” is not standard – first of all, this is a good place to note that the pdf italicizes stuff like “Knowledge” that shouldn’t be italicized. Secondly, PFRPG usually handles knowledge pertaining undead via Knowledge (religion). It’d have been nice to see variants of the virus codified as scaling hazards, but that may be me.

As unfortunate as aforementioned hiccups are, the pdf does have something to offer that really stoked the fires of my imagination: A lore section. The pdf discusses how the voidborn are the result of a nanotech virus designed to wipe out life in the Milky Way, and when the pdf talks about how the virus was seeded by sublight probes, how it feels to be infected, the behavior patterns of voidborn, their campaign role and how their predation works, I couldn’t help but smile. As underwhelming as the statblock was, as much did I enjoy this page of well-written and fun lore.

Now, for SFRPG, the voidborn also clocks in at CR ½, but uses the EAC and KAC values of a CR 1 creature from the combatant array. Instead of +2 to Ref-saves, we have +2 to Will, which is odd – as per the undead graft, the critter should have +2 in all saves. Similarly, the undead/unliving traits are nowhere to be found here, instead sporting the voidborn trait. The attack values provided are correct, but the damage values lack the modification bestowed by Strength. Furthermore, the line looks like the creature gets a secondary melee attack at low attack bonus, which is uncommon in SFRPG at low levels, where multiple attacks are usually relegated to CR 6 and above. The ability DC for their fever is off, and we, alas, get no proper track, though the disease practically screams for a custom disease track progression.

The statblock should also specify that they’re mindless, which would usually influence their skills. Here, they seem to be using the CR 1/3 values instead. While them having a master skill (Intimidate) violates mindless’s paradigm, I can live with that, though it’s odd when you think about it, as Intimidate requires a conscious effort that the creature is clearly incapable of undertaking. The statblock, as a whole, does not operate as a SFRPG-statblock does, lacking “other abilities”, the proper formatting of a couple of components, etc.

The table is properly codified regarding the skill employed, which is a plus, though considering the flavor, Life Science or Medicine notes to treat the disease (in Starfinder, much more dangerous than in PFRPG!) would have been nice. As an aside – this being a virus, this practically screams for its own subtype graft.

The flavor, as before, is nice.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting on a formal level are good, though the deviations from the default values irks me. On a rules-language level, there are quite a few issues and deviations from the standard, and, alas, this pdf doesn’t have much beyond the statblocks to rate in that regard. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard, with the SFRPG-version having a nice, starry border. The pdfs have no bookmarks, but need none at this length. The artwork featured rocks.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan have written, as loathe as I’m to say it, two deeply flawed statblocks here, with the SFRPG one feeling like it’s a pre-Alien Archive one. Particularly in SFRPG, the options of the system have not been realized, and there are, unfortunately, quite a few glitches in this brief file. This is all the more unfortunate, as the lore section is inspiring, to say the least, and oozes flavor. Still, as a whole, I can’t rate this higher than 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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5/5

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 6 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, on the introductory page, we have something I really like – notes on harvesting mutating much, i.e. creature remnants. I don’t know why, but the notion of using parts of magical creatures to supplement your magical effects has always appealed to me immensely. (As an aside: Playground Adventures’ Creatures Components Vol. I is THE resource for that sort of thing…) Each muck yields 3 doses, plus one dose per size category above Small. Heal or Survival may be used as a substitute for Craft (alchemy). The item is properly codified – Monster Blood Tonic. When you consume it, you’re affected by the mutative muck’s subtype’s consume ability for 1 minute. If you drink a second tonic within 24 hours, the effects become permanent, and 1d20 hours later, something goes horribly wrong, subject to GM’s approval. Yep, whip out your mutation tables, ladies and gentlemen!  Some ideas are btw. provided. Nice one!

Mutative Muck, as a baseline, is depicted as a CR 5 ooze, and whenever it takes damage, it regenerates 5 hit points and gains a growth point. When the ooze consumes a creature that’s been dead no more than an hour, it gains a growth point, if it’s of the same size as the muck or smaller, 2 points if the target creature consumed is larger. Eating a creature takes a full-round action, and every time, these guys get 5 growth points, they get the giant creature simple template, up to a maximum of Gargantuan. When a muck doesn’t get growth points, its size reverts at the rate of one template per day. Capable of massive suction, striking these with a weapon can disarm you, and whenever th muck hits a target with a slam attack, the target must save or be affected by one of 6 effects from the mutative muck’s weirdification table. As hinted at before, consuming these mucks has mutative properties.

So that is the base-chassis of the creature. There are no less than 5 different mutative muck subtypes included, all with their own consume-effects and weirdification tables. Two of these tie in with Everyman Gaming’s phenomenal Microsized Adventures – gigantifying grimes and microsizing mires can modify the creature’s size – and the weirdification effects? They’re awesome! The Gigantifying Grime’s table, for example, include having the head swell to an impossible size, making the target count as one size category larger for purposes when you need to squeeze. What about thickening and elongating, which imposes a penalty to AC and the sickened condition. What about having arms shrink to the size of stubs? Yeah, these are fun. When you encounter a polymorphic pollution, you risk having your head transform into that of an animal or vermin – with the corresponding Intelligence! And yep, you can end up being mindless! You could also potentially lose a pair of locomotive limbs!

Regression Wretch makes you younger, and can feeblemind you, turn you into an infant, etc. – while withering wretch is the other side of the coin, potentially aging you! And yeah, this, obviously, can be used in conjunction with the age-modifying rules from Childhood Adventures, but, it works perfectly fine without access to that book.

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

Matt Morris delivers something genuinely fun here: These mucks go one step beyond what you usually see in creatures, not by power, but by narrative potential. In fact, they reminded me of why I really enjoy some of the far-out OSR-books, and why I go through the hassle of converting as much material as I do. You see, there are a couple of supplements out there, which, in tone, and rules, just jumpstart your imagination – and the mutative mucks are just that. The growth engine alone can allow you to make the classic “Blob from outer space/Wizard’s lab”-storylines; add to that their properties, and you have reasons for PCs to seek them out. Heck, add the unique effects of the subtypes of muck, and you have a plethora of cool adventure hooks just waiting to happen. This is a cool premium-critter pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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5/5

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

On page numero uno, we get the stats for the intermediate cruiser of the Eldred, which clocks in as a tier 4 vessel with the suggested 115 BP. As far as frame is concerned, the intermediate cruiser uses the large destroyer and an arcus heavy power core. Interesting: It is pretty solidly armed with a light particle beam and a torpedo launcher as well as light laser cannons and a signal basic drift engine, but its energy consumption can theoretically exceed output, showing its status as a bridging model intended to test new designs. The ship comes with basic shields and slightly above average HP, at 170. Crew modifiers are provided for captain, engineer, gunners, pilot and science officer, and we do get a small table for Computers check DCs to know details about the ship. A brief flavor-text further contextualizes the ship, and the page containing these pieces of information sports a rather nice full-color artwork of a cockpit.

Amazing: We get a full, top-down map of the ship in full color, with every component explained…so if your PCs get one of these charming ships, they’ll know exactly where what is. The detailed labels really bring this ship to life and are super helpful. HOWEVER, it would have been amazing if the pdf had also featured an unlabeled version, for the instance where the PCs enter it without having a clue where they are. The ship encompasses three decks, btw. Also a huge comfort-plus: the pdf comes with an impressive one-page full-color artwork of the cruiser, perfectly-suitable as a handout. A whole page of paper-mini-style stand-ins is included as well, and if that weren’t enough, we get a surprisingly neat, lovingly crafted ship-sheet, already filled out for your convenience – now that is consumer-friendly!!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a surprising amount of high-quality artworks. The cartography is very impressive and in full-color – add an unlabeled version and I’ll be in heaven; even at this point, though, this is beyond what I expected to fin. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan honestly surprised me with this humble pdf – we get a ship with character here – a slightly overburdened one with its intentional flaws, but personally, as a fan of series like Firefly et al., this makes the intermediate cruiser actually more charming to me. The quality of the artwork and cartography, the added filled-in sheet, the paper mini-versions, the handout versions – these people have really put some thought into this supplement. The attention to detail and care must be applauded, and indeed, here’s the even better thing: This fellow is actually available for PWYW! Seriously, this is one cool, unpretentious premium-ship for any price you’re willing to pay! What’s not to love?? So yeah, I highly recommend checking this out and leaving a proper tip for it. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.


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5/5

This installment of the Ship-centric Galaxy Pirates supplements for Starfinder clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, leaving us with 4 pages of content – for the pdf that sports “demo” at the end. You see, this actually comes with a second version that I consider to be the true iteration of the pdf – that one clocks in at no less than 15 pages, of which 1 page is taken up by the front cover, 1 by the SRD.

So, how come? Well, the pdf is somewhat akin to the ship-pdfs by Evil Robot Games that I’ve covered so far: We get a fantastic artwork of the ship in question, presented as a damn cool 1-page artwork/handout. We also get a page of paper-mini-style small artwork versions of these.

HOWEVER, the pdf does also represent an evolution in several crucial components: The first, and most important evolution would be that the pdf does not simply present a single ship. Instead, there are no less than 7 (!!) ships, with full stats included. All of these are pirate fighters – the base version comes with a micron light power core, a gyrolaser and mk 3 armor and defenses, clocking in at a tier 1/3 interceptor with 30 BP. Like all the ships herein, we get proper crew modifiers for the pilot, and a little table of Computer Check DCs to glean information for it.

That would be the basic, stock pirate fighter – the pdf then proceeds to present an advanced gun-fighter, which, at 40 BP and tier ½ is powered by a micron heavy power core and comes with a coilgun – and a MK1 mononode computer! But perhaps you prefer raw power over mk 4 armor and defenses and a better computer? Well also at tier ½, there would be a variant that comes equipped with a micron light power core and a chain cannon instead – though, obviously, this means that compromises had to be made regarding defenses. On the other side of the spectrum, the heavy armored fighter would be a variant that has a gyrolaser and with mk 5 armor and mk 6 defenses certainly is…well, better defended! You get to choose! Really cool!

However, unlike in previous pdfs, there are variants provided – the ace pirate fighter, at tier 2 and 75 build points, for example, comes with a signal basic drift engine, a pulse black power core and forward-facing weaponry that includes a coilgun and a light torpedo launcher…oh, and aft? Actually defended in contrast to most fighters – a light laser canon is waiting for fools. With an MK 2 monode computer, as well as better armor and defenses, it certainly makes for a significantly more impressive vessel, as befitting of an ace pilot!

On the other side of things, you know how it can be. You’re stranded in some sucky desert cantina, with barely a credit to your name, and you know you need to get around? Well, sometimes beggars can‘t be choosers and for these instances, we get tier ¼ ships with a paltry 25 BP – the degenerate gun-fighter and the degenerate laser-fighter. The former comes with a flak thrower, the latter with a gyrolaser and a light laser at the aft. Big plus!

Anyhow, there is more to these: You see, in contrast to other pdfs, the respective ships do come with notes on famous units: For the tier ¼ vessel, we for example learn about how…certain…ahem… temperaments of pilots favor it; we learn about ace pilots and how Errad’s Roughriders favor the armored vessels – these little bits of flavor enhance immersion.

Now, here is the reason this pdf is so much larger than the previous ones – we get fully filled-in ship-sheets for ALL of these variants – you just need to print them out, and bam, you’re set to go. That is pure awesome, particularly considering how aesthetically-pleasing these sheets are.

There is one more aspect in this pdf that put a HUGE smile on my face, that sent my mind to the stars. It’s about 2/3 of a page long, and it has the rather unremarkable header “procedures.” It adds more to the sense of reality, to being plausible, than I imagined, and it made me very aware of how much I missed that type of information from Starfinder’s Core book. First of all, the external visual inspection section can provide some cool roleplaying cues and even adventure hooks for players and GMs alike.

Even cooler, and put a big smile on my face, though, were the detailed “Prepare for takeoff” instructions – they really let you visualize how it is to pilot them. It adds actual soul and detail to getting into your fighter, it makes the whole thing…more real, less of an abstraction. This may well have spoiled me for any scifi-RPG; it’ll now be something I’ll be looking for everywhere – and yes, “Takeoff Procedure” also is explained. You don’t see how amazing that can be? Okay, perhaps this is the otaku in me talking, but I still get goosebumps when my favorite heroes get in their fighters, are sent towards launch pads, hit the ignition switch and announce over intercom their names and that of their fighters, how they’re ready for takeoff. Perhaps it’s just me being a huge Gundam fanboy, but this section…oh boy, did it made me smile! It’s a small thing, but to me, it vastly enhances the pdf.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and, as before, the artwork presented for the fighter is amazing. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. While we do not get a map of the one-pilot interceptors, this is offset by the sheer amount of content we get.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver a pdf here that is insane. The amazing artwork alone is worth the asking price, of, get ready…a paltry BUCK. Yep. $0.99. You can’t buy ANYTHING even halfway significant for that nowadays (not sure how much a snicker bars is today in the US), but I know that you can’t even get a cup of joe for a buck! The artwork alone is worth the asking price; and then, you not only get a whole bunch of ships, ready for insertion into your game, you also get them already filled into ship-sheets…AND you get flavor galore! For a buck! This is one of the pdfs that really made me scratch my head regarding how it can…well, exist– honest passion is the only explanation feasible.
It really is. The evolution of the already impressive base of the series in this way further shows a willingness to listen to fans…oh, and that humble procedure section? It’s not something you’ll whip out all the time, obviously. But it adds an immense amount of soul, of plausibility, to the proceedings, and it helps reduce the disjoint between playmodes – it makes piloting feel less like “We hit the space combat mini-game”, and more like “I go into *MY* fighter. I start the sequence. *I* go out.” – this humble bit of fluff makes entering space combat feel like it’s a continuation of the game, not a hard-cut-abstraction, as modes shift.
Beyond roleplaying potential (My lucky safety harness…pictures of holiday planet xyz, etc.), this is so obvious now that I see it, it’s puzzling that I never realized how much I missed it before.
This is one little stroke of genius indeed, and I sincerely hope that SFRPG publishers take heed- this is how it’s done regarding ships. I am genuinely and thoroughly impressed by this offering, and if you even remotely have use for a couple of space pirate fighters (seriously, who hasn’t?), then get this ASAP. If you purchase this and end up genuinely thinking that this wasn’t worth the single buck of its asking price, then contact me. I’ll refund you. And no, I’m not affiliated with Evil Robot Games in any shape, way or form. I just believe this much in this humble, amazing little pdf. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval. If these guys ever kickstart a big book of ships, get on board. Seriously – if this is the shape of things to come from the company, then consider me a fan!

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This first collection of NPCs clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, the first thing you’ll notice when opening this collection of NPCs would be that we do not get just NPC/Alien Archive-ish entries – this book depicts fully fleshed out characters. The second thing you’ll note would be that the presentation of said characters deviates somewhat from what we’re accustomed to see in Starfinder.

Take Jad Vanta, the first example NPC: We have a small box that lists her as a level 1 CG themeless android envoy; below that, we have listings for KAC and EAC, speed, HP and SP, Resolve, BAB, initiative, ability scores (including ability score modifiers) and saves all in one box. Below this box, the melee and ranged sections are noted before we get a summary of special abilities, feats and then, a skill-table, which denotes class skills with a check mark, as well as the relevant bonuses in those skills. (Nut not ranks invested or the like); finally, below that, we have the equipment section, which differentiates between combat and non-combat gear. While this may, at first, look a bit uncommon – I won’t lie, it elicited the ole’ “That’s not how it’s formatted usually”-response, I quickly began to see the value in this. As this page also contains the full-color artwork of the respective character, we have a pretty simple and handy one-page pregen-sheet here.

Yep, that’d be the first important thing – the characters presented within this book do work as pregens. But beyond that, they also are presented as either villainous or heroic NPCs, i.e. as potential adversaries or allies for the PCs. Now, we all know how Starfinder treats PCs and NPCs differently, and this is represented in the statblocks to follow as well – each of the NPC-iterations presented within comes in 5 different iterations: One for CR 5, CR 8, CR 10, CR 14 and CR 20. These statblocks generally adhere to the presentation conventions of Starfinder, though they do go a tad bit further – they list, for example, the armor worn with all upgrades in the defense-section, which is generally something I welcome. They are, in a way, slightly more transparent than most Starfinder statblocks when it comes to how they were made. Indeed, this “go one step further” mentality is mirrored in the presentation of the NPCs and made me recall one of my favorite series from the PF1-days, namely “Faces of the Tarnished Souk.” How? Well, the NPCs doe come with a tactics section that notes how the NPCs will fight, when they’ll spend Resolve, and there even is an investigate behavior pattern noted.

Beyond that, each of the NPCs has something that made me smile, namely the conceit that these characters may have a bounty on their head – each of them comes with a one-page “Wanted”-style bounty poster, and notes appropriate credits for the bounties for the respective iterations. These “posters” are in so far immersive, as they note physical descriptions of potential crimes and even a “tap to accept”-button. It’s a small touch, but one that really put a smile on my face. This mentality also shows in the details. Let’s take Jad Vanta to exemplify one thing here, namely how consistent this booklet is regarding its details. You see, each NPC comes with a detailed background story, and Jad Vanta awoke to these words:

“Your name is Jad Vanta,” the message on the data pad read. “And I am sorry for what I leave behind.” (Italicized for the purpose of the review and to set apart the text.) Jad came to consciousness brutally damaged, and the previous personality of the body, Gaff Vanta, was indeed wanted for a whole array of terrible crimes. While the background story notes how Jad was cleared of the charges by her previous personality’s partner, Adele. However, the bounty hunter poster mentioned, this handout, is looking for GAFF, not Jad, noting the crimes of personality cloning and erasure of one Jad Vanta! Did a Jad Vanta previously exist? Is this a Jekyll & Hyde-ish story? It depends on how you read it! The guidance for NPC-use indeed mentions several such angles, though certainly not all of them! There are so many way to use this android, it’s pretty impressive – and all courtesy of the interaction between a handout and a clever, well-written story.

Speaking of which: “Carvad Station” as a hub of sorts features in the stories, which allows you potentially to contextualize the respective NPC – or, well, to integrate the material within into a similar station-like hub like Absalom.

This also provides means to potentially connect the characters to a shared baseline of experiences – and potentially, ideologies. Take the second character, Kass Florentine (NEVER “Kassandra” – always Kass!). The spacefarer mechanic – somewhat traumatized by the Carvad Station Massacre, a rather traumatic incident in the station’s history, she is per se a good-natured and kind person. On the other hand, in her villainous iteration, she may have a connection to aforementioned Adele Gunn, which paints a rather…interesting picture. In her antagonist iteration, one could call her an excellent saboteur and terrorist.

Hierarch Massat, the icon vesk mystic with the overlord connection, would be a good chance to note a peculiarity of the statblock formatting that I did not like in an otherwise rather impressively tight book: Italicizations for spells etc. are not really implemented in the concise manner that they should be. O the other hand, ability names that shouldn’t necessarily be italicized sometimes are; I don’t object to the choice of the latter, particularly when this enhances first-glance readability/text-scanning for viable information, but yeah – it’s something to bear in mind.

Claiming to be a chosen of the Visual God, he has a bit of an inquisitor to him – claiming to divulge secrets and unearthing hidden agendas, he actually delivers and thus, he could be considered to be a divinely inspired detective/snoop of sorts, crossed with the rare exception of being, well, a televangelist with integrity and honest belief. I know, a radical concept that pushed my sense of disbelief, but in the infinity of space, why not? Kidding aside, I like this concept very much, and I genuinely believe that running him as the evil celebrity preacher dude, while certainly efficient, is the more obvious and less interesting route here. The hierarach and the mechanic covered so far also exemplify one thing that I haven’t talked about before. Those tactics-break-downs I mentioned? For characters like them that become significantly more efficient and versatile over the levels, the respective statblocks all have their own tactics etc. sections. Kudos for, once more, going the extra mile!

Kiron Maas would be a xenoseeker operative of the ysoki race with the spy specialization, comes with a vocal modulator, and actually has connections to Kass, as well as to the previously mentioned Adele Gunn – the slowly unfolding tapestry of connections between these folks and their surprisingly well-crafted background sections makes the book a fun experience to read indeed. Now, I haven’t commented on that, but the integrity of the statblocks, at least in the instances where I checked them, is actually commendable, managing to squeeze character and interesting combinations out of SFRPG’s rather tightly-wound math, so yeah – kudos! Special abilities have been employed in a sensible unobtrusive way, and while I personally would have liked to see a couple of custom abilities for the higher level builds, considering the focus on pretty straight NPCs, the book does a pretty nice job of helping them stand apart from their brethren.

Not all components of the statblocks are perfect, but as a whole, this book does a pretty good job. One example of a minor snafu would be found with the final character herein, who would be Voque, a kasatha mercenary soldier with the blitz style: Initiative for the pregen is off by +1 – it should be +5 (+4 blitz, +1 Dex-mod), not +4. These are not dealbreakers, but yeah… That being said, the character, designated as a nihilist, is actually pretty interesting: Plagued by survivor’s guilt, she is a great example for a character who, for once, is a nihilist without being depicted as a straight up psychopath. Since this is a philosophical leaning very close to my heart, I considered this to be a rather refreshing authorial choice. The trauma and how compassionate it has been rendered here certainly makes Voque a character that I’d certainly contemplate playing.

So yeah, there you have it – a compelling roster of characters, with surprisingly deep stories – and a teaser that hints at future products, where more the station and the mysterious Adele Gunn will be revealed.

Conclusion:
Editing can be considered to be very good on a formal level and a rules language level; for a small operation, it is quite impressive to see a book this refined, particularly one as crunch-intense as this. Formatting is a bit of a tricky question: If you can live with e.g. spells not being properly italicized and minor deviations, as well as the unique presentation style for the pregen-builds, then you could judge this as impressive; if you consider the latter, for example, to be a downside, then this aspect might put you off. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and we get high-quality full-color artworks for every NPC featured within; the inclusion of the “wanted”-poster-style bounty alerts are a big plus and really helped lighten up the crunchy book.

Author Jim Milligan and editor Paul Fields have delivered a rather impressive compilation of NPCs that deserve being called “characters” here; the builds themselves are well-executed as a whole (I certainly have seen plenty less interesting/refined ones), but for me, it was the little touches that made this stand apart. From the tactics to the bounty alerts, this pdf has all those neat flourishes that show that the team CARED. There is passion in these builds, and the stories and how they interact with the characters, the webs they weave, make them ultimately more than just a collection of numbers. This is all the more impressive, considering how they do not resort to easy differentiation methods. Now, this may not be a perfect supplement, but it is one that is worth getting if you’re looking for a cadre of unique and flavorful characters to add to your Starfinder game. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This module-compilation/series of connected vignettes/deluxe-sized adventure clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 29 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

Originally, this was intended to hit sites in time for Christmas, but due to my injury, the review fell by the wayside. Since then, I’ve been asked by one of my patreon supporters to move this up in my reviewing queue, so there we go – a holiday module! (As an aside, I like to plan ahead, so yeah, reviews are, in a way timeless, right?)

Anyhow, this compilation takes place in the meta setting of Crestview Hill, and a player-friendly map has been included in the pdf. A sample character sheet is also part of the deal, and we get a charming, hand-drawn map of a sample default house of the town. This pencil-drawn map, while sans scale or the like, doesn’t require them either, courtesy of the VsM Engine’s relative simplicity and focus on narratives. Anyway, it should be noted that this was released for the first season of Vs. Stranger Stuff, which means that it may end being somewhat easy when employed in conjunction with the second season’s rules. These rules are btw. included in the download, though personally, I’d very much recommend getting the excellent second season.

This book contains a series of 6 brief “adventures”, which you generally can complete in a single session of playing each, potentially even within an hour in some cases – these should be considered to be more akin to encounters; fast groups may even tackle more than one in a protracted gaming session. I will continue to refrain to them as “Adventures”, since that is the nomenclature employed within. The adventures can also theoretically be taken out of sequence and played as stand-alone modules/encounters/expansions for your scenarios with a bit of work, should you choose to – module #1 and #6, though, are pretty obviously ones that should be run in their intended spot when using this as a mini-campaign of sorts. I should mention, though, that these respective adventures behave more like chapters of a unified narrative, so basically, you should consider them part of a bigger adventure. It should also be noted that this does have an optional connection you could develop to Vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns.

All right, got all of that? Great! So, in order to discuss these, I will have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..
.
All right, only GMs around? Great!

As for the flavor of the backdrop: Crestview Hill is suffering from the dwindling logging industry and, apart from a small plant, it’s pretty much a piece of rural Americana in decline. A recent focus of general anxiety on the youth of the town for petty crimes has blown up to a “crime wave” (Too soon for a “war on crime”, though…), and when a pentagram was spray-painted on a back wall, a healthy slice of satanic panic entered the fray. The leader of this outrage mob would be Montgomery Batefield, member of a wealthy local family.

We start these events as the adults are living it up at the Community Center, while the well-liked Jenny Winslow, a teen, does the babysitting for a lot of the neighborhood families – the PCs are thus gathered, watching some cool late night movie, when Jenny comes in bearing popcorn and pizza. The idyllic evening is interrupted by a phonecall, and Jenny seems to be agitated – she seems to be fighting with her boyfriend, her parents don’t approve of him, and since the town is considering a curfew, he tries to convince Jenny to run off with him. Visibly rattled, jenny will leave the PCs to the tender screen, to wrap some presents – and after a while, the PCs can hear thumping upstairs…and a cold breeze will be blowing from upstairs.

Investigating will yield a present, crudely-wrapped, with oozing liquid seeping from it and leaving a trail behind. Approaching the grisly package will see it develop stubby limbs that will carry it back into the room – where they’ll see the Krampus. He pronounces a sentence (Big kudos for getting the German right!), leaps from the window…and the present attacks! It btw., obviously contains the dismembered bodyparts of poor Jenny, animated as a corpse puppet. Phones are dead…and what to do now??

Well, module #2 sees the PCs trying to get to their parents – as they pass the department store, they witness little elf-like creatures vandalizing the Department Store; the PCs follow them, probably, but ultimately will have to best them in the manager’s office, where they show that they are grotesque imps – killing the weak and annoying critters sees them burst into flames…but on the plus side, the PCs can restock here!

Entering Maple Street will have the PCs witness Krampus dragging away 3 kids in chains – kids the PCs go to school with! Seeing the PCs, he’ll fling his chain up a tree and face the PCs! But before he can reach them, he mysteriously bursts into an icy, snowy flurry – from here on out, the freezing wind will act as a global penalty to PC draws, and when the PCs dislodge the chain to free the PCs, they’ll witness the chains animating as pretty tough adversaries.

Continuing, the PCs can see that there’s a power outage in the cold – all save the blaringly-lit house of Mr. Stern, which features the excess of blinking and flashing lights. Passing near, the strange lights will start to color themselves a wicked red, bathing the streets in a putrid, pinkish-red glow, as the plastic decorations are filled with unearthly life and attack – including reindeer and a snowman…and once these have been taken care of, plastic Santa will come as a pretty tough boss.

While the others are site-based, the 5th sequence is not – Cruel Christmas has the PCs see ominous signs of violence – blood splotches on snow banks, hoof prints in the snow, a car with holes punched in…with piles of crashed cars as strange barriers…and when the PCs hear a gunshot ringing, they will witness deputy Dewey bleeding out, skewered by a zombie reindeer! Powerful and deadly, there are plenty of them…and they’ll herd the PCs towards the Community Center. It is here that Batefield used his occult knowledge to dupe the townsfolk into contributing their energies to the subtle summoning of Krampus. The smartest PCs get to engage in a Brains challenge to come up with a couple of deductions that may or may not be true, depending on the GM: Depending on how complex you’d like to make the showdown, you can use multiple components of the potential Krampus-binding to modify the showdown, for the adults have been drugged. It’s up to the Kids to stop the cultist and Krampus – both of which are potent foes…nice angle, btw.: Particularly good children may be invulnerable regarding Krampus, for he can, after all, only hurt naughty children. (And yep, going outside is a convenient justification to declare PCs naughty if you have a group of goody-two-shoes.)

The pdf closes with notes on how to handle longer adventures such as this, as well as suggested rewards.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice one-column or two-column full-color standard with a nice mix of photography-style b/w and full-color artwork. The cartography is nice and full color. Downside: The pdf is not properly bookmarked, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Lucus Palosaari and Rick Hershey provide a nice Christmas mini-campaign for the Vs. Stranger Stuff game. The series ticks off all the different takes and takes on a particularly apocalyptic tone that I didn’t expect here; not content with a series of standard vignettes, this goes one step further, and is better off for it. Global effects and pretty tough challenges that can be customized, particularly in the ends, represent pretty cool components. I kinda wished that the connective tissues here had been a bit more pronounced, that there had been a bit more interconnectedness and consequence between and within the sections of the module, but this is me complaining at a high level – the finale and start and overall atmosphere make up for being mechanically somewhat straight.
All in all, I do consider this to be a fun, well-wrought mini-campaign. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was sponsored by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

All right, as always for the series, we use the OSRIC rules-set, including a couple of deviations from said system’s formatting conventions; conversion to other OSR-games is pretty simple. As for level-range, the module is intended for 4-6 characters of levels 3 – 5 and it takes places in a borderlands-like frontier’s region, which is represented by a hex-crawl area.
Unlike many hex-crawls, the hexes themselves aren’t numbered, instead providing terrain features etc. It should be noted that there are two overland maps – one for the general region (with a scale of 1 hex equaling 1 mile) and a second one, which takes a slightly more detailed look at the area, with a hex being equal to ½ a mile. The overland exploration does feature entries that focus on animals, humanoids and bandits, making for a subdued and quasi “realistic” take, which is something I generally enjoy. A further plus here would be that the hex maps are not boring – from rivers to hills etc., the region feels plausible and diverse enough to explore. The icons chosen to represent specific places also are easy enough to differentiate from another. The pdf does include two mini-dungeons as well, both of which cover 4 rooms arranged in a linear manner. The module, as always for the series, does not contain read-aloud text for the most part, though one of the adventure hooks does provide a bit of text for the GM.

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

..
.
All right, only GMs around? Great! So, by frontier’s region, I meant that design and to consciously evoke the whole frontier-narrative; you see, the Callair Hills were once part of the domain of the Ynlar, a proud warrior race who kept the goblin population in check, mining and working on the silver that their native lands offered. When southern settlers came to know of these bountiful lands, the response was swift and predictable, and after a period of initial peace, greed triumphed and the Ynlar retreated to the prospectors…until their burial lands were to be settled, whereupon a bloody conflict saw them wiped out. A period of calm followed, due to political circumstances, and now, settlers had once again been sent off to Callair Hills to farm and mine. And this is where the PCs come in.

There are three hooks: Happening upon a farm where the dead still lie, getting a job offer, or being warned by settlers leaving. Callair Hills have been haunted, and folks are dying. Farms are destroyed. It’s up to the PCs to find out what happened. Okay, so this premise is per se interesting, and before you groan – it’s not a noble savage narrative that’s spun here. The map contains quite a few farms that may be destroyed, abandoned or inhabited, though no sample names or NPCs are provided. Close examination of the area will show that there are quite a few burial mounds, with skeletons inside – at least at day. At night, the skeletons (more powerful than usual) roam the area, though, oddly, this is not represented in the random encounters. An alternate table for of encounters for nighttime journeys would have been nice.

Further exploration of the area will feature the ruins of an old fort, the first of the 4-room mini-dungeons, where a scholar can potentially be used to fill the PCs in on the region’s history. While creepy, the fort has a couple of nice cultural tidbits – a means to preserve food, some cave locusts, etc. This is atmospheric, but ultimately a sidetrek and mechanically and story-wise, not relevant. You can skip the entirety of this complex and still “beat” the module.

The same does not hold true for the second mini-dungeon, the biggest burial mound in the center of the fields. Though “big” is relative – RAW, the map uses a scale of 2 feet per square, which makes the first room 10 feet wide and long. If you usually track PC positions, this can be a rather claustrophobic experience and makes running it a challenge.

This complex, once more, does a good job at establishing a culture for the Ynlan, and it contains two tomb guardian undead bodyguards resting, as well as the new creature, the barrow lord, a rather potent 7 HD undead. If the PCs plundered his tomb so far, they won’t have much choice but to attempt to destroy the undead – but if they have reigned in their avarice and act quickly, they may attempt to communicate with the undead, provided they have a means to converse with the undead. (Another way to handle this would be aforementioned scholar…) Turns out that the barrow lord swore a solemn oath to defend the ancestral lands from invaders…and clever PCs may succeed in convincing him that his undead legions have been killing harmless farmers that do not constitute invaders. Or, well, the PCs could go on an extermination crawl and clear all the mounds and destroy the barrow lord – after all, he and his undead legions have been killing innocent folks.

The pdf includes notes on further adventures in the region.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features nice b/w-artworks that I’ve seen before. The cartography is b/w and does its job, but no player-friendly versions are provided, though the scale-decision for the final mound is puzzling and harder on the GM than it should be – most groups will need to redraw that one. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is the first module by Geoff Gander I’ve read, and it has potential: I like the descriptions, the theme, that it does not stoop to just providing an annoying noble savage narrative. I enjoy the subdued themes, and for a first module, this is pretty nice. However, the adventure really suffers from its brevity. Some encounters by night, some pressure, more expansive mini-dungeons, more details for the farms and overland exploration – this has the makings of a nice adventure, but its scope seems to be too much for the few pages it has to develop its ideas. I know one-page-dungeons and mini-dungeons that are meatier.
This module, in short, is flimsier in content than its page-count would make you believe. You can finish this in under 4 hours, easily – even quicker if your players are very “get the job done”-style driven veterans. With 3 or 4 pages more, this could have been a really good adventure. As provided, its brevity neuters any impact it might have had, the atmospheric tidbits etc., and reduces it to a solid, if woefully short offering. My final verdict can thus not exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up only due to this being the author’s first module.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

3/5

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was sponsored by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

All right, as always for the series, we use the OSRIC rules-set, including a couple of deviations from said system’s formatting conventions; conversion to other OSR-games is pretty simple. As for level-range, the module is intended for 4-6 characters of levels 3 – 5 and it takes places in a borderlands-like frontier’s region, which is represented by a hex-crawl area.
Unlike many hex-crawls, the hexes themselves aren’t numbered, instead providing terrain features etc. It should be noted that there are two overland maps – one for the general region (with a scale of 1 hex equaling 1 mile) and a second one, which takes a slightly more detailed look at the area, with a hex being equal to ½ a mile. The overland exploration does feature entries that focus on animals, humanoids and bandits, making for a subdued and quasi “realistic” take, which is something I generally enjoy. A further plus here would be that the hex maps are not boring – from rivers to hills etc., the region feels plausible and diverse enough to explore. The icons chosen to represent specific places also are easy enough to differentiate from another. The pdf does include two mini-dungeons as well, both of which cover 4 rooms arranged in a linear manner. The module, as always for the series, does not contain read-aloud text for the most part, though one of the adventure hooks does provide a bit of text for the GM.

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

..
.
All right, only GMs around? Great! So, by frontier’s region, I meant that design and to consciously evoke the whole frontier-narrative; you see, the Callair Hills were once part of the domain of the Ynlar, a proud warrior race who kept the goblin population in check, mining and working on the silver that their native lands offered. When southern settlers came to know of these bountiful lands, the response was swift and predictable, and after a period of initial peace, greed triumphed and the Ynlar retreated to the prospectors…until their burial lands were to be settled, whereupon a bloody conflict saw them wiped out. A period of calm followed, due to political circumstances, and now, settlers had once again been sent off to Callair Hills to farm and mine. And this is where the PCs come in.

There are three hooks: Happening upon a farm where the dead still lie, getting a job offer, or being warned by settlers leaving. Callair Hills have been haunted, and folks are dying. Farms are destroyed. It’s up to the PCs to find out what happened. Okay, so this premise is per se interesting, and before you groan – it’s not a noble savage narrative that’s spun here. The map contains quite a few farms that may be destroyed, abandoned or inhabited, though no sample names or NPCs are provided. Close examination of the area will show that there are quite a few burial mounds, with skeletons inside – at least at day. At night, the skeletons (more powerful than usual) roam the area, though, oddly, this is not represented in the random encounters. An alternate table for of encounters for nighttime journeys would have been nice.

Further exploration of the area will feature the ruins of an old fort, the first of the 4-room mini-dungeons, where a scholar can potentially be used to fill the PCs in on the region’s history. While creepy, the fort has a couple of nice cultural tidbits – a means to preserve food, some cave locusts, etc. This is atmospheric, but ultimately a sidetrek and mechanically and story-wise, not relevant. You can skip the entirety of this complex and still “beat” the module.

The same does not hold true for the second mini-dungeon, the biggest burial mound in the center of the fields. Though “big” is relative – RAW, the map uses a scale of 2 feet per square, which makes the first room 10 feet wide and long. If you usually track PC positions, this can be a rather claustrophobic experience and makes running it a challenge.

This complex, once more, does a good job at establishing a culture for the Ynlan, and it contains two tomb guardian undead bodyguards resting, as well as the new creature, the barrow lord, a rather potent 7 HD undead. If the PCs plundered his tomb so far, they won’t have much choice but to attempt to destroy the undead – but if they have reigned in their avarice and act quickly, they may attempt to communicate with the undead, provided they have a means to converse with the undead. (Another way to handle this would be aforementioned scholar…) Turns out that the barrow lord swore a solemn oath to defend the ancestral lands from invaders…and clever PCs may succeed in convincing him that his undead legions have been killing harmless farmers that do not constitute invaders. Or, well, the PCs could go on an extermination crawl and clear all the mounds and destroy the barrow lord – after all, he and his undead legions have been killing innocent folks.

The pdf includes notes on further adventures in the region.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features nice b/w-artworks that I’ve seen before. The cartography is b/w and does its job, but no player-friendly versions are provided, though the scale-decision for the final mound is puzzling and harder on the GM than it should be – most groups will need to redraw that one. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is the first module by Geoff Gander I’ve read, and it has potential: I like the descriptions, the theme, that it does not stoop to just providing an annoying noble savage narrative. I enjoy the subdued themes, and for a first module, this is pretty nice. However, the adventure really suffers from its brevity. Some encounters by night, some pressure, more expansive mini-dungeons, more details for the farms and overland exploration – this has the makings of a nice adventure, but its scope seems to be too much for the few pages it has to develop its ideas. I know one-page-dungeons and mini-dungeons that are meatier.
This module, in short, is flimsier in content than its page-count would make you believe. You can finish this in under 4 hours, easily – even quicker if your players are very “get the job done”-style driven veterans. With 3 or 4 pages more, this could have been a really good adventure. As provided, its brevity neuters any impact it might have had, the atmospheric tidbits etc., and reduces it to a solid, if woefully short offering. My final verdict can thus not exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up only due to this being the author’s first module.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait! Right at the bottom of the SRD? There’s a coded message there. See if you can crack it sans decoder!

So yeah, Allakhadae. Another nice touch is that this pdf’s introductory text? It warns the GM; makes slightly fun of them Alen Igma. Loved this introduction.

But what is Allakhadae? A CR 30 Great Old One. BOOM. And I mean “BOOM” – this fellow uses both psychic magic and kineticist tricks, being classified as an essokineticist who draws upon the powers of the planes themselves and uses psychic energy instead of regular Burn to pay for its powers. The Great Old One is impossibly skilled, can change sizes – and thankfully, is imprisoned…for now. The entity also can spend PE to warp reality, making REAL mirage arcana, simulacra,etc. – in short, we have a truly FRIGHTENING campaign-ender elder evil that WILL challenge your high-level PCs!

Of course, such an impossibly smart entity does have a cult, and as such, the pdf also includes the dream subdomain, which allows for the shaping of pleasant dreams (or nightmares), and 8th level yields basically a variant of the witch’s slumber hex.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules language level, apart from a missing blank space in flavor text. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a neat artwork, as seen on the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I love Alexander Augunas’ monster-design. His critters have a tendency to have staying power, to be difficult and imaginative in their abilities, and this beauty is no different. 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This installment of the so-far absolutely amazing Pop Culture Catalog-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All righty, we begin this supplement with a brief introduction, as well as the rules for the fandom engine that powered the first two Pop Culture Catalog-installments (Vidgames & Clothing); I explained the engine twice by now, and I don’t like repeating myself, so please consult my reviews of these supplements if you need a refresher of what it does.

Stressed out by your interstellar adventures? Nova Age and Blood Space rigors got you down? Fret not, for in the Xa-Osoro system, there are plenty of resorts to choose from! A total of 8, to be more precise. All of the resorts and cruises herein note their price, location and system, type and the area the resorts cover. As before, we get a great visual treat, one that uses modified tweaks of the logos of famous real world destinations in a way that makes the respective allusion clear.

Kickass (and perhaps inspired by one of my all-time favorite Black Mirror episodes), Cyber City Resorts sports a 80s-style logo and represents a fully virtual resort maintained via the mental upload and temporal stasis technologies of the dwarves of Ravnopolis. Allowing for the exploration of digital vistas. As an aside – this obviously does allow for nigh infinite means to insert all kinds of other adventures into an ongoing campaign, which is pretty awesome. Fans of this one get +1 to Perception and Disguise DCs regarding spells and items based on holograms. Dillington is more conventional: Vacation homes overlooking bucolic countrysides, technology is downplayed and behind the scenes, catering to a nostalgia of ages long past. More importantly, the place thankfully has a filtration unit that keeps the Blood Space-augmented strain of therianthropy out…which, of course, makes for a ready-made hook that any GM half worth their title can use for a rather frenetic module…and being a no flight zone, exploring these notions in the context of the quasi-luddite environment is pretty cool. The pdf also provides brief settlement stats for the resort’s primary city, and fandom taps into the multicultural nature of the race, allowing you to recall information over specific races.

ReVuYu has been built on the glynwarians’ planet, and houses the most advanced R&D facilities in an all-inclusive anti-aging destination…and that is meant literally. The unique properties allow for the transformation into children, allowing you to experience your childhood anew in a no-adults-allowed environment, which once more makes for a pretty awesome adventure baseline. Minor nitpick: It’d have been nice to get item stats for the age-regressing tech employed here. Being a fan of this place enhances your ability to interact with kids and adolescents. Sarvatora Springs is a popular beach resort operated almost exclusively by the Bantosian’s native catfolk, Named for its famous hot springs, which have miraculous healing powers, this place has all the amenities that you’d expect from an awesome beach trip. The extremely reliable geyser that acts a s a kind of clock allows fans to better glean information from natural terrain as well as resist e.g. avalanches and similar environmental dangers. The Toran Strip is basically space Las Vegas, allowing fans to purchase items of a higher character level, provided you can pay the bribes, that is! Extra kudos to all GMs for introducing Fallout New Vegas-style content here. Personally, I’ll be sure to include Mr. House here. *clicks again on the replay button of the “The House Always Wins”-song by the Stupendium*

Xtravix is operated by 1010 Robotics and is situated in several thousand expansion bays to the SuperRing, with places fashioned after biomes both real and imagined, including those from the legendary Okami company’s (The Nintendo stand-in) videogames, with fandom helping you to bypass environmental hazards or negate their effects.

More nightmarish than fun, at least for me, would be the Dalton Whimsy World. Picture a Disney World that is, actually, a whole world, that is the sole inhabitable planet in the star system. “The Happiest Place Ever After” – and it does have its own fleet and is outside government regulations. Fans may spend Resolve to resist emotion effects. Nitpick here: There are no immediate actions in SFRPG; that should be a reaction. On a plus side – the place houses a rather twisted, secret underground metropolis that houses the employees incorporating the characters of Whimsy World. (I’d love to see this concept developed into a proper, full setting book…so much potential here for characters etc….)

Worvenia would be the second resort world here, and it comes with no less than 3 sample settlements. It’s the oldest resort in the system and focuses on wintersports, with a city on the Northpole, Southpole, and the ring…oh, and holiday spirit and good cheer? Totally mandatory…As a fandom perk, this one allows you to spend Resolve to reroll Acrobatics checks to keep your balance on ice, snow, etc.

The pdf also features a total of 2 different cruise lines noted, with Iron Cruise Company being the first; this company focuses on cruises towards the Lovers, the collective of Eozatta, Ozari and their rings. They come with several luxury outfits available per night, and the ships feature anything from official tavern crawls to lounging areas, libraries and casinos. Offering anything from a full month to a one-year-cruise, the cruise helps fans to recall knowledge about and Pilot through natural wonders. Jionshi-Wu, the safest possible cruise, uses an ultranought ship and is one of the most heavily armed ships ever, an honorary member of Azanward’s Armada fleet, with the crew consisting of soldiers honorably discharged. The vessel had no less than 1,400 attempts made to breach it, each resulting in catastrophe. But surely your PCs will be successful, right? ;) The fandom allows for better information recall about Azan, kami, etc.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are still very good on a formal and rules language level. Apart from a missing blank space and an l instead of an r, as well as the one action hiccup, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to the series’ neat two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports great artworks for the icons, as noted. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t require any at this length.

Alexander Augunas delivers a cool supplement herein; each of the locations has some sort of complex adventure hook baked right into its core, with many of them making me really excited to see and read more about them! All in all, this represents a flavorful, inspiring and fun offering, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 8 pages blank, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this pdf with 6 new arcanist exploits: Altered Protection is clever and a great start for the pdf – the exploit allows an arcanist to spend 1 point from her arcane reservoir to change the damage type to which the protection of an abjuration spell applies to another choice taken from that spell’s array. NICE! Cerebral implantation lets you choose 4 spells of 1st level or higher that you’ve added to your spellbook. You may then prepare these sans your spellbook, and you may reassign these upon taking a new arcanist level. You may taken this exploit once, plus an additional time for every 6 class levels in arcanist you attain. Interesting one! Convincing Change lets the arcanist bolster a transmutation spell that nets a bonus to Disguise as part of the casting: The 1 point spent makes divinations detect the arcanist as the creatures the character turned inti/disguises as. Gold for infiltration and really, really cool!

Dramatic illusions enhances figments and glamers that allow a Will-save to disbelieve. When casting such a spell, the arcanist may expend 1 point from her arcane reservoir and make a Bluff or Disguise check. The first time a creature succeeds a Will save, they must attempt a Sense Motive check versus the Bluff or Disguise check to disbelieve the spell successfully. On a failure, disbelieving fails as well. While a creature can only be subjected to this exploit once per day, this can be incredibly potent in the hands of a creative player, provided the skills in question are properly maxed out. Personally, I’d have avoided the skill issue by tying the check to skill ranks, but that is arguably kinda odd. It’s one of the more problematic aspects of PF1, and by less of a fault of the ability, and more by that of the system, is something I’d be weary of. Ricochet Spell allows the arcanist to spend 1 point from the arcane reservoir as part of casting a spell requiring a ranged or ranged touch attack roll to choose a single square within 10 ft. per class level to be treated as the square or origin to determine targets in range, line of sight and cover/concealment. The distance of the square chosen from the arcanist is subtracted from the spell’s range, which makes sense. This is pretty damn awesome, elegant and cool. Two thumbs up! Weakening Resonance allows an arcanist to expend 1 point from the arcane reservoir to reduce a target creature or object’s hardness by 5, minimum 0, for Charisma modifier rounds. This is missing an activation action.

The pdf also includes a total of 7 greater exploits. Cerebral Spellcasting builds on the aforementioned exploit that has you implant spells to prepare them sans book, allowing for the casting of such spells sans spell-slot expenditure by expending arcane reservoir points equal to the spell’s level. Such spells may also be thus cast via arcane reservoir points without having them prepared in advance. Contingent Protection allows the arcanist to spend 1 point from her arcane reservoir when casting an abjuration spell with a list of options and have its onset delayed to an immediate action. Deadly Spells lets the arcanist expend 1 point from the reservoir to reroll any 1s on damage dice of hit point damage dealing evocation spells cast. Rerolls that come up as 1s can’t be rerolled. Dimensional Gate lets the arcanist expend 1 or more points (maximum Charisma modifier, minimum 1) from the arcane reservoir as a standard action to create a gate within 10 feet per class level; said portal may be used a number of times equal to the points spent in making it. The portal does not block line of sight/effect and movement through it doesn’t provoke AoOs. This requires dimensional slide. Exploitative Ruse adds the ruse descriptor for arcane reservoir points expended, with the number contingent on the spell’s level. As a standard action, the effect may be revised, but you must be in medium range, and the exploit requires the expenditure of spell slots for both spells. Creatures that fell for the ruse have saves penalized, and the ruse may have an initial spell and multiple lower effects tied together, and AOE-effects are also accounted for. Cool, high-difficulty design here!

Subconscious Demand can be used to modify a language-dependent spell being cast by expending 1 point from the arcane reservoir to make them affect targets that don’t share a language with the caster; 2 points can be spent to affect critters with Int of 3 or less, and 3 points can be used to combine these benefits. 4 points, finally, may be spent to get rid of the descriptor altogether. Towering beast, finally, can be used to cast polymorph spells with “beast shape” in the name by spending arcane reservoir points equal to spell level, increasing Strength and Constitution by +2, natural armor by +1, but also the Dexterity penalty by 1. Weapon damage dice of natural attacks increase by a size category as well, but this modification as a whole decreases the duration of the spell as a balancing tool.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are, for the most part, very good on a rules language and formal level. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the series, and the artwork is nice. The pdf has a rudimentary bookmark towards the SRD, but doesn’t need them at this length.

Matt Morris’ arcanist exploits are really creative and execute several truly impressive rules-language operations, making this pretty much a must-own supplement for arcanist fans. As a whole, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down due to its few flaws.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure is intended for 6 – 10 level 3 characters, and is situated in the city of Punjar. Picture an opium-clad, decadent haze, a metropolis of ancient stones, foundations old as time itself. A moloch – you don’t have to run this in Punjar, but you do need to have a decadent city with a storied past. As always, we do get plenty of read-aloud text, as well as a list of the encounters in question. My insistence on the setting of this module stems from its difficulty: The adventure’s complex is dangerous and pretty much requires that you can set it up properly. Without foreshadowing the shape of things to come, the players will be hard-pressed in this one. Groups that have no idea what “legwork” means will learn the hard way here that this rumor table that’s included herein? It’s not just decoration.

The module features two official handouts – one depicting a pretty epic room, one depicting a scroll that takes up half a page. Official handouts? Yep, one of the primary sources of treasure (and danger) is lavishly illustrated in a gorgeous full-page piece. This, while not explicitly designated as a handout, is de facto the third one.

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

..
.
Only judges around? Great! So, in ages past, the cult of the Carnifex rose: Recruiting from the lowest of castes, from the diseased and crippled, a strange death cult arose, exalted in its worship of the transience of flesh, serving as the grand Overlord’s executioners, reminding the decadent nobility of the ephemeral nature of their lives, of the might of Punjar’s ruler and the cult. The decadent city’s delight over the macabre chthonic cult wasn’t universally shared, though – thus came Azazel of the Light, radiant and fanatic, bent on purging the world of the unclean. He amassed his Swords of the Pious and invaded the subterranean sanctuary of the Carnifex cult with a small army of the city’s brightest scions, girded in armor agleaming in the rays of sacred light. They dived below, but for all his might, not even Azazel could hope to slay the goddess. In his desperation, his pleas echoed beyond the realms of godlings and divinities, and tapped into the primal source of life itself. Suffused by the light of raw creation, he plunged the goddess into darkness, and sealed her away with the sacrifice of three of his best. Today, the descendants of the nobles that fought the Carnifex and her cult guard the hidden entry to the tunnels below – and the secret that remains.

It is into these storied halls that a ragtag group of adventurers wants to make their way into, that they’ll seek to plunder for gold and glory.

Come on, if that is not a set-up of pure awesomeness (and my prose is not half as good or detailed as the authors’, what is? This basically is the perfect Thief-age Conan story-set-up. This background story, or at least the nature of the Carnifex cult, is of the utmost importance for the PCs to know, for the beginning of the complex is very much crafted to potentially ward off intruders: Provided the PCs don’t fall to an ignoble death or are eaten by an immobile, disgusting and bloated spider-thing that tries to reel them in, cave-fisher style, they will witness skull-and-bones-death iconography that would be cheesy sans context, but for once actually works here. The PCs may actually cause and be swept away by an avalanche of skulls and indeed, further pain looms – as well as the bottleneck. The nature of the cult? Its secrecy and deviousness? It makes sense: In one room, the PCs are presented with multiple doors, and while the impulse is, of course, that one is the right one, they all lead to danger. The truth is a kind of Xanatos Gambit – none of the doors are correct, and the entry to the hidden sanctuary is actually a completely different thing. Considering the deadliness of the door traps, it takes some experienced players accustomed to dungeons that can make sense from a builder’s perspective to deduce this beforehand…though the challenges themselves can well be survived.

Though, granted, the PCs will need their resources for the things to come after this nice ante-chamber-ish mini-level. If the PCs have survived the challenges so far, they know what they’re doing. That’s good, for they are facing off against a military force. The swords of the pious yet guard these halls, and with drums, guards and a defense plan, they are formidable foes, fanatical in their devotion. They also are grotesquely mutated from the radiance emitted by the shell of Azazel, by the force of life. Death, but a conclusion to their service…which in itself is twisted, considering the ideologies of the prime players in question. The PCs may discern more from the ramblings of an exiled madman from their ranks, should they succeed in not being slain first, though traps and tactics make that a true challenge…but one that may pay off: The unofficial handout I mentioned? Well, these halls house the reliquary, where the most sacred implements and magickal tools of the Carnifex are left, from the eponymous jewels to the dreaded Grimoire Nex…but greed does have its dangers – this is not a place for the faint of heart or unskilled to plunder, and the intrinsic details provided ultimately mean that success is very much up to the skill of the players in judging, amidst other things, the risk-reward ratio accordingly.

Sooner or later, the PCs will find themselves in a brutal battle against a legion of the swords of the pious, and, should they live, have a chance to witness the lavishly illustrated and grotesque idol venerated by Azazel…speaking of whom…well, turns out he killed the three swords to seal the Carnifex, but the incomplete binding (which constitutes a kickass puzzle that can be solved logically) leaves only one conclusion: Azazel has never completed it. He refused to sacrifice himself and finish the job! At the very latest should this seal be sundered, Azazel will attack with all that remains of his mighty force. The radiant commander has perfectly drilled his men, and beyond that, strikes against him rupture the hollowed out shell of the divine essence…oh, and he has his own frickin’ crit-table. It’s deadly, and his tactics basically make him a multi-stage boss fight of the highest caliber, honestly one of the best finales to an awesome module I’ve seen. Oh, and yeah, the PCs may free the Carnifex. Meet her. Talk to her…or, if they fall, they may find such interesting amulets on their necks…And yes, the Carnifex is described in a way that manages, in a few sentences, to make her both alluring and utterly frightening. And yes, if you do think that the vast treasure may prove to be an issue – there are some ideas to handle that provided…

The bonus adventure included, penned by Brendan J. LaSalle “Lost in the Briars” doesn’t really have anything to do with the main adventure, but I actually believe that this is a good thing this time around. More focused, it represents a brief wilderness adventure. Nockmort, a meteorite-mutated treant, has almost finished a ritual that would allow it to ascend to godhood – all that it requires is an elf, so an elven PC (or an ally/retainer) can help regarding the stakes. The forest exploration features trees animated by Nockmort handing off, fire-brigade-like, animals, fleeing peasants, bandits, and a take on the Slenderman, Mr. Saturday Night. The forest also features a couple of keyed encounters, but ultimately focuses on thwarting Nockmort’s ascension ritual….and yes, it has less reliable Plan B scenarios…Nockmort, fyi, is BRUTAL. This may “just” be a humble bonus adventure, but it is NOT to be taken lightly! Unlike the main-module, it does not feature read-aloud text, which is a bit of a pity, considering how much I usually enjoy the author’s prose.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a rules-language and formal level. The module sports a ton of fantastic b/w-artworks of the highest quality, and particularly the two official/unofficial full-page artwork/handouts are amazing and make up for the fact that no player-friendly unlabeled maps are included in the deal – which is a pity, for the gorgeous b/w-map also sports artworks of adversaries faced within. Utterly baffling and hopefully an oversight – the pdf-version actually has no bookmarks! That is a huge and annoying comfort-detriment. If you don’t want to print this (which I did) or get it in print, consider this enough to detract a star.

I like how Brendan J. LaSalle’s bonus adventure takes a step back and does something completely different; it is a mechanical challenge and a fun, on-the-way sidetrek module that still has the DCC-flavor. It was a wise choice to opt for this route.

Why? Because I consider Harley Stroh’s “Jewels of the Carnifex” to be an example of a nigh-perfect Sword & Sorcery yarn. The prose is phenomenal and lavish, yet terse enough so it doesn’t bury you. The complex is plausible, deadly, and focuses, ruthlessly, brutally, beautifully on player agenda and player skill over rolling of the bones…though there’ll be plenty of that. I also adore and welcome the fact that this module pulls no punches. At 3rd level, your PCs and players better know how to properly dungeoncrawl – or this module will teach them. With delicious pain. This is a hard module in all the right ways. It makes sense, and even in its nastier moments, always remains fair. This is the antithesis of petty and fiat-laden – it is brutal, yes. As brutal as a good Sword & Sorcery yarn should be. It also helps that the prose and atmosphere feels as though Mr. Stroh had channeled the spirits of Leiber and Howard (or Roy Thomas, Savage Sword of Conan, minus the requirement to abide by the comic code – that was the non-goofy, pretty mature-audiences-oriented era…) and fused them with adventure-writing. This reads like a lost Conan-as-a-thief story, just with your PCs as the cast – and it plays just that way. And, in the end, you may well have a king’s ransom to carouse away in Punjar’s streets…provided you survive.

If that has not been made ample clear by now – I consider this a brilliant yarn. If you even remotely enjoy the Sword & Sorcery or dark fantasy genres, then consider this a must-buy. 5 stars + seal of approval, easily given. This also gets my best of tag as one of my all-time favorite Sword & Sorcery modules – and that in spite of the lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps, which usually would cost this at least one star – it’s just too damn amazing to rate down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This bestiary clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of introduction/how to use, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, let’s be real – ginormous monsters are awesome! Duking it out with Godzilla as a demigod-like high-level character? Heck yeah! Here’s the thing: Running these titanic foes on the battlemat? That can be a pain. Worse: What if you need a good showdown in the middle of a dungeon? Suddenly, the vast threat is a lot less mobile, cool, and you need to structure the dungeon to account for it. Retreating battles are out of the question…and I could go on.

This is where this book comes in – within its pages, we get an array of new Medium monsters for mid to high levels. Better yet – the creatures are new, and they all come with their own full-color artworks. Beyond that, they not only feature unique signature abilities, they also come with full write-ups for their ecology as well as habitat & society! These are not just bland statblocks, they have a context. I thoroughly applaud this!

But what kind of monsters do we get within? Well, first, there would be the alabaster beetle, and I love it: This CR 12 vermin has a carapace that renders them invisible to darkvision (Now that’ll be a nasty surprise!) and they also are capable of emitting a spray of acidic, paralytic spray with a cooldown. Add grab and constrict, and we have a critter that feels plausible in its streamlined nature, and creative. Strong first critter!

The homunculus dragon (CR 16) has easily my favorite artwork within this book: They have blood points that they can use to metamagically enhance their spells, and the draconic patchwork creature has a chaotic breath weapon – it may manifest as cones or lines, and damage types similarly are random…oh, and the length? It also oscillates! Cool! The homunculus dragon can also generate a random elemental aura, and with its clever feat array, it makes for a kickass adversary!

Taking a truly horrifying concept, we also are introduced to a new construct, the CR 14 Ersatz (which btw. means “replacement” in German); an ersatz comes with programmed skills, depending on the role it’s supposed to take, and they are superb at imitating the creature they’re designed to mimic. Its disguise only becomes flawed once it has taken a sufficient amount of damage…oh, and guess what…they have a self-repairing trance. Being actually composed of a bloodlike matter, they can bypass armor and shield bonuses by worn equipment, but not their enhancement bonuses. Oh, and yes, construction notes included. Basically, we have liquid replicant blood-terminators. How cool is that???

At CR 15, the faithslain are undead wearing porcelain mask, a darkened void behind the eye-slots, a slithering, black tongue that deals negative energy damage (or heals undead) projecting from the mouth. Creeped out yet? They are vulnerable to good magic…but its tongue? It may instill heretical thoughts in those hit, tainting the target. Really nasty and creepy – as undead should be. The write-up also btw. includes a good version

Then, we get general rules for fiendfused creatures, which are a kind of extremely possessed humanoid: They all can change shape, and gain fiendish knowledge. Sufficient damage from [good] spells or holy weapons (not italicized; like a couple of other spell-references here) can actually rip free the fiend, annihilating the fiendfused, but confronting the PCs with a well-rested and angry fiend… and while fiendfused have the monstrous humanoid type, they detect as outsiders, but do NOT count as such for the purpose of effects that inflict additional damage versus fiendfused.

There are a total of 4 fully-statted fiendfused included: The first, at CR 18, would be the Abyssal tyrant, who is a fusion of humanoid and balors that is wreathed in a nimbus of “unholy damage”-causing energy. There is no such thing in PFRPG. Cool, on the other hand: On crits, these fellows can snare targets in bonds of force, and they get a backlash versus targets that crit them – oddly, here they get the damage type right…but on a flavor nitpick, the ability shouldn’t be called “Hellfire Rebuke” – balors are demons, not devils. While I’m nitpicking: The magic weapons the creature uses are not properly italicized, a minor oversight that also extends to the CR 15 coil kissed fiendfused. These fellows add 1.5 Strength bonus to damage with slams (Strength not properly capitalized), their weapons become magical, and they have an increased slam reach. Their grapples are weird, though; or at least: Inconvenient. One ability kicks in when the fiendfused hits two or more times with a slam, but the standard attack array only sports one slam; an alternate, weapon-less attack array would have made this more convenient to use.

On the lawful evil side of things, we also get CR 18 infernal despots, pit fiends fused with mortals. These fellows can grapple foes with their tails, get poisonous pins, and immediate action quickened fireball retribution for crits is neat, as is the ability to tear the DR-ignoring properties of defensive tricks of armor etc. away. Nasty, brutal – love ‘em! The final fiendfused is the fellow we can see on the cover – at CR 11, we have the shearing menace, a fusion of mortal and glabrezu, who gets an alternate attack that can neuter the movement rates of targets, confuse targets subject to rend, and 1/day retaliate for a crit with power word: stun.

Finally, there would be an aberration – the CR 18 misbirthed, a thing straight out of your Silent Hill-ish nightmares, with not only a nasty SP-array, but beyond that, even looking at it may render you insane, as per insanity! And yes, the ability does still affect those immune to fear, though to a lesser extent. Sure, it only is this bad when seen in proper light…but here’s the issue: Proper lighting is the only thing that can suspend the creature’s regeneration…and no, daylight does not suffice. In darkness or other lighting conditions, on the other hand, the misbirthed warps reality and may attack multiple targets…Creatures successfully subjected to the misbirthed’s rend attack have a chance to be randomly greater teleport/plane shift-ed away. Truly a horrifying monster! To quote the flavor text: “Bruised and red skin stretch over a malformed alien skeleton. It’s impossible to tell what parts are bone or what parts are flesh, amid the body of the writhing creature. This thing should not exist.”

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are, for the most part, very good on both a rules-language and formal level; it’s just in the fiendfused that sport a couple of minor hiccups, two of which, unfortunately, slightly influence rules-integrity on a rules-language level; on a formal level, there are a few missed italicizations, more than I’m accustomed to see from Legendary Games. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the Wrath of the Righteous plugins, and the plethora of full-color artworks provided for the monsters is cool. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Thurston Hillman and Jesse Bonner provide a great array of flavorful, high-concept critters – quality over quantity. Much to my pleasant surprise, even the fiendfused aren’t just straight ability-grafts, but do creative things. On a metalevel, I really love how they have abilities that discourage builds that focus solely on critical hits, and how it doesn’t go the easy route – these are high-complexity, well-written adversaries, which makes up for some of the minor, formal snafus. There is not a single creature herein that I disliked or considered boring – and it’s only the minor hiccups that make me omit my seal of approval from this pdf, which makes this clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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