Fadil Ibn-Kazar

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A Great System

5/5

This is a great system to use in your game. Since Endzeitgeist has already analysed it, and there is seldom something to add to his reviews, I just want to give you a glimps into my handling of Ultimate Rulership at my gaming table.

After playing Jade Regent with the help of Imperial Relationship and the add ons to it, I used Ultimate Relationship to spice up Frog God Games Slumbering Tsar by building a few of the NPC in the Camp along the rules of Ultimate Relationship and adding NPCs of Coliseum Morpheum by Rite Publishing into the mix, also "converted" into Ultimate Rulership.

My group is at level 11 right now and they are having a blast, spending more and more time in the Camp or taking NPCs with them to work on them while adventuring, for instance a certain Ranger of Skeribars team (I won't spoiler, don't worry).

I can only recommend using Ultimate Relationship in your campaigns and I hope there will be a lot more NPCs for the diverse Adventure Paths in the future, like those already in Imperial Relationships. Keep on with your good work! Please!!


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A very nice und unique tale

5/5

Shaia "Shy" Ratani is a very interesting character and has an unique point of view with her sarcastic comments on what is happening. Her employer is fitting in being the opposite of her hired rogue, and the Taldane society is nicely done which its backstabbing and arrogant way of life.
I hope we'll get more of Sam Sykes soon!


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Ceremonial Masks unmasked

4/5

This is a review for 'Call to Arms: Ceremonial Masks', a supplement by Fat Goblion Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Call to Arms: Ceremonial Masks is about 16 pages long with some nice pics (and a cover, OGL and so on). Of those 16 pages, 1 page is a short story and 3 pages are about masks in real history. It is, you guessed it, all about masks, and we are presented with 11 mundane, 20 magical, 3 cursed, 1 intelligent, 1 mythic and 1 artifact ceremonial mask. Toward the numbers I have to add that the mythic mask has a nice non-mythic part, but even the mythic part is harmless enough to be useful in a non-mythic campaign without any correction. The artifact mask isn't really useable for predominantly good parties.

In addition we get one new archetype, the Masked Shaman, who is unsurprisingly a shaman variant. Essentially it replaces the spirit animal with a bonded item, which, again unsurprisingly for this supplement, is a mask.

The mundane masks presented are all nice. For a few coins they give a few boons which tend to be cornercase of course, but I like items that are useable early on in the game where they tend to enhance characters in roleplaying. Well done, especially the Devotee Mask, which enhances the too-much ignored Deiific Obedience and the Holy/Unholy Mask, which doubles as a holy symbol – simple mechanics but nice ideas, all of them fitting in less then 2 pages!

The magical masks are obviously the main part of the supplement, ranging in price from 4,000 to 90,000 gp.

Sometimes the wording isn't to clear, I assume the Greater Healing Mask doesn't allow the normal healing effects of Channel Energy in addition to enhancing neutralize poison and the other spells, but I'm not sure.

There are also masks which are to strong for my taste (and their price tag). The Mask of Cosmic Horrors seems underprized at 16,800 gp, allowing its user 3/day confusion for 1d6 rounds for everyone looking in 100 feet, even with its doable Will save. The (in my eyes very strong) Mask of the Skull from the Pathfinder RPG Core book is added here too.

Aside from this, most masks are nice and well done, covering a vast area of effects. I especially like the Witch Mask, which allows you to be a (limited) one-PC-coven and also let you use magic related teamwork feats like Shielded Caster with yourself. That opens up some nice possibilities which are mostly unuseable outside of a witch-only party.

The Mask of the Necromancer is pure gold, even if the picture for it doesn't resemble the description at all. Aside from this minor point, its an intelligent mask with a purpose and the means to achieve it, which can aid the user and endanger it also, forcing the user to walk a narrow path. I like the roleplaying potential of this item in good parties when morals and greed will undoubtly collide sooner or later. I'll add this item to my current campaign.

One last thing to know about this supplement: While most of the mask do use the head slots (some are slotless), you can change most of them at will (some are activated only after being worn for a time), so you don't have to worry about not being able to use more than one of these goodies for your favorite character. The temple mask for example, which has a bane effect like the weapon enhancement, can even be put on a pole or wall and still works with its cone-effect.

Conclusion:
While I'm not convinced by the archtype and some of the wordings the supplement has some nice mundane and magic items. Aside from the Mask of the Necromancer and the Witch Mask I didn't see anything great, but almost everything is solid, useful and well thought out.
All in all I'll give this supplement 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you like flavor like I do with masks hanging on temple walls and such you may round this up, if you are into crunch only you may want to round that down.

Have fun!


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A new monster and more

5/5

This is a review for 'Deadly Gardens Volume 3: Scorpion Cactus', a supplement by Rusty Iron Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Deadly Gardens Volume 3 has a 3.5 pages with a nice pics (and a cover, OGL and so on).

First of all, while this supplement is supposedly about a Scorpion Cactus, said monster is just a page long, while we get on two and a half more pages a terrain type, a natural hazard, and nine natural items, most of which have nothing to do with a Scorpion Cactus and sometimes even the connection with a garden theme seems a bit stretched, with Cave Fishers for instance, but not so much as in the second number of the series. The ideas presented here are good, but the title is a bit of a misnomer and may not fullfill the expectation of buyers.

On we go toward a detailed look at the contents.

First we start with a quagmire, which, as a CR 2, is nice, but the idea has surfaced in other supplements as well over time. What I like is the new terrain type 'Salt Flats', it fits the cactus-theme and it incorporates the aforementioned quagmire in a nice way.

Next we get to the title monster itself, the Scorpion Cactus. This is a well done creature. Plants usually have a big problem, than that's their underwhelming speed. Now the deadly garden series recognizes the problem, in this case the speed is 0 ft, but solves it with nice thought-out reach and a defensive ability which scares away natural predators, for it stores the heat of the day and can release it if threatened. The latter doesn't help against adventurers, but adds a realistic component which I like. Maybe a limit on the usage per night would have been good, while by day it could have been used every 1d4 rounds or something like that. But all in all nice crunch and nice fluff.

The final topic are natural items, starting with how they are harvested, used and preserved. We get nine of those, all nicely done. You can get a strong silk line out of a cave fisher, can use the powdered horn of a gorgon and so on, so you are able not just to loot the treasure of your monster, but also parts of their body for minor but fitting benefits. The only one I didn't get was why the Scorpion Cactus Nectar could heal fatigue (among others). While plants sometimes have unexpected abilities, I would have liked it tied a bit more to the monster. But thats a really minor complain.

Conclusion:
All in all this is a supplement well done, while nothing is really great, you get twelve good and useful items for your next expeditions. The title is a bit misleading as I pointed out above. I'll settle for 4.5 out of 5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Have fun!


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Courting a butterfly

5/5

This is a review for 'Ultimate Relationships #1: The Lonely Lyrakien', a supplement by Legendary Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Ultimate Relationship in general
First of all, the Ultimate-Relationship NPCs need Ultimate Relationships (also by Legendary Games) to fully function, for Ultimate Relationships gives the groundwork this supplements build on, so plan to add this to the costs. Ultimate Relationships is good on its own though, so that's no real problem aside from the price tag. All in all, Ultimate Relationships improves the interest in the NPCs, improves role playing, and encourages a friendly race to reach and master the 'Breakthroughs' with the various NPCs. When my group leveled up, they always had a look at their notes regarding the NPCs while doing the skill points. 'If I put something into this skill, it will help me with this NPC... ' was something I liked hearing behind my screen. And getting through breaktroughs with NPCs is often celebrated like the win against a boss monster.

The Lonely Lyrakien
Now on to the supplement itself. Ultimate Relationships has about 4 pages for one NPC, a female little flying cleric. The supplement is based on Spivey from the Jade Regent Adventure Path (Brinewall Legacy). Her stats, her equipment and everything else are identical to the original, which are also shown on D20pfsrd. I can understand the lack of change for the stat part, but I'd have liked to see some other equipment or spells for some choice, maybe even something unique out of another product Legendary Games has to offer. A 'During Combat' section would also have been appreciated.

Next we get an interesting history of the characters which is useful for the Jade Regent, but for other adventures also. The author always looked into how to use her outside of that Path, and I like that very much. I also like the Preferred Gift and Interactions part, which really helps to bring her personality to life, especially the hints regarding her relationship with the 'Mute Harpy' (Zaiobe of Brinewall Castle I'd guess) which I hope will be seen soon in an additional part of the Relationship-series. Affinity Notes and thoughts about her joining the party are following the guidelines given in the Jade Regent Adventure Path, but the new system is well incorporated in her decision process and so the players are given more opportunities to sway her the right way. Well done indeed! The Romance-Part is cute, her alignment is reflected in her participation, only her advancement is a bit sketchy, I would have liked to see a statblock or two of her being of higher (cleric) level.

Regarding boons I like both of them since they fit her theme, are useful and not too powerful. I'm not sure if I understand the 'specialization' right – is it a Skill Focus? Aside from this, thumbs up!

Now we'll get to the Rank Ups, and here I had to laugh time and again – the author captures the feeling that the PCs are trying to catch the attentions of a cute butterfly. But there's more under the surface of this particular azata, which I don't want to spoiler here, but which gives her personality beside her religion and alignment and should keep the interest of a roleplaying group. Oh, and if you really want to get her attention, I hope you'll get a broomstick or other method to fly – those earthbound beings will never truly understand a creature of travels, starlight and wings!

Conclusion:
If you want to see an interesting NPC joining your party for a longer time and you like role playing, then you'll want to get your hands on this supplement (and its 'mother' Ultimate Relationships), even if you don't plan to play Jade Regent. Azata are able to be improved familiars for arcane casters of level 7 or higher. Those are not also clerics, but The Lonely Lyrakien is good enough for me to handwave this just for the relationship. I'll settle for 5 out of 5 stars for this interesting character, just barely missing the Crown, but I hope to see more of her in the 'Mute Harpy'. Great Job!

Have fun!


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Building a relationship with a viking maiden

4/5

This is a review for 'Ultimate Relationships #2: The Viking Shieldmaiden', a supplement by Legendary Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Ultimate Relationship in general
First of all, the Ultimate-Relationship NPCs need Ultimate Relationships (also by Legendary Games) to fully function, for Ultimate Relationships gives the groundwork this supplements build on, so plan to add this to the costs. Ultimate Relationships is good on its own though, so that's no real problem aside from the price tag. All in all, Ultimate Relationships improves the interest in the NPCs, improves role playing, and encourages a friendly race to reach and master the 'Breakthroughs' with the various NPCs. When my group leveled up, they always had a look at their notes regarding the NPCs while doing the skill points. 'If I put something into this skill, it will help me with this NPC... ' was something I liked hearing behind my screen. And getting through breaktroughs with NPCs is often celebrated like the win against a boss monster.

The Viking Shieldmaiden
Now on to the supplement itself. Ultimate Relationships has about 4 pages for one NPC, a female barbarian. The supplement is based on Kelda Oxgutter from the Jade Regent Adventure Path, but the stats are different from those in the Brinewall Legacy, most notably the Shieldmaiden is Unchained. I like that, this way you can chose between her and the 'Original', picking the one that suits you most. What I miss is a combat section for the Shieldmaiden, though for a low level character her tactics and preparations are not too hard to guess. I'd have liked to see some more stats of hers for higher levels, not only the small hints that are provided. That would relieve a GM of some duties since the NPC is supposed to stick around and not everyone is good at constructing shield based warriors or superstitious barbarians.

Next we get a nice history of the characters with extra notes regarding Jade Regent, but the author always looked into how to use her outside of that Path, and I like that very much. I also like the Preferred Gift and Interactions part, which really helps to bring her personality to life. Affinity Notes and thoughts about her joining the party and staying with it are also nicely done.

Regarding boons I like the level 10 boon, but the level 7 boon could be better. The CMD-Bonus is not that good and I'm not sure if I understand the 'specialization' right – is it a Skill Focus?

Now we'll get to the Rank Ups, and here I see the problem of them being very difficult. Since the Shieldmaiden will be seen as a warrior-class when first met I'll guess mostly martial inclined characters will be drawn toward her. The text claims that she likes fighters and skalds, which makes sense, and one of the boon requires you to fight with a shield yourself, which is also well thought of. But then you need lots of high and different skills to get the Shieldmaiden swooning, which isn't that easily achievable by the typical warrior with an intelligence dumpstat. I understand that diplomacy and sense motive is always useful in every relationship, and perform has its roots in viking society, but Linguistics DC 26 and Knowledge (history) DC 28 out of the blue will not be easily achieved and may potentially be frustrating for martial characters at first glance. But as mentioned in the discussion thread, the rank-ups can be used as a flat ability check at a lower DC, and affinty also gives a bonus. You also receive a cumulative +2 bonus for each attempt at a rank-up, so by design, if you keep at it, you are eventually guaranteed to succeed.

Conclusion:
If you want to see an interesting NPC joining your party for a longer time and you like role playing, then you'll want to get your hands on this supplement (and its 'mother' Ultimate Relationships), even if you don't plan to play Jade Regent. The problems I mentioned above are correctable without too much work (with the possible exception of the statblocks) and you can tailor the Shieldmaiden for your own campaign without troubles. I'll settle for 4.5 out of 5 stars, rounded down, for this interesting character.

Have fun!


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New patrons, hexes and archtypes for witches

2/5

This is a review for 'Character Options Witches', a supplement by Rusted Iron Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Character Options Witches has about 5.5 pages with three nice pics (and a cover, table of content and so). It contains 10 new witch patrons, aberrant, beauty, celestial, chaotic, divine, draconic, fiendish, nature, orderly and sin. With a few introducing lines, patron spells and hexes unique to that patron. There also are three new witch archtypes which combines the witch with the cleric, the druid and the bard respectively.

The spell lists for each patron are good to okay in my opinion, I especially like the patron of sin, which is a nice addition to the sin-series of Rogue Genius or the Thassilonian sin magic Paizo offers. The divine patron is somewhat odd, since the witch has to chose a domain or subdomain and her patron spells are those domain spells. This pushes the witch strongly toward a cleric in my eyes, but that needn't be bad per se. The draconic patron could fit into Dragonlance nicely.

The hexes have a few minor glitches, like spells not presented in italics, or the missing fluff in the new disease, for it would be interesting to know the symptoms of a disease called 'accelerated slimy doom'.

Contend-wise the hexes are sometimes nice, but most of the time they come with question marks.

The aberrant patron hex for instance can be used the usual once per day on any creature, but it causes the aforementioned disease which has a frequency of once per day and it is contact with two consecutive saves. I see low level witches going through normal villages and killing almost every commoner. Also I'm not sure about the synergy with the disease triggering an additional time and the once-daily part of using the hex. A clarification for this hex would be nice.

The beauty patron hex has the ability to suggest, but I'm not sure if that works like the bard ability or the spell. The idea behind this is nice, though, and reminds of fairy tales.

The chaotic patron hex grapples with a will save to counter that. While this is odd as written with a save instead of CMD, and a will save to escape tentacles instead of a reflex save, its also unclear how far the grapple goes. Does it pin? Also, without the once per day limit on a given creature it seems to be a very strong hex.

The draconic patron hex is underwhelming. I have a dragon patron, one of the mightiest creatures in the world, and he gives me the power of – darkvision and blind sense. Yes. Maybe I should take that tempting and better offer that friendly (nonexistent) mole patron suggests?

The orderly patron hex can remove conditions like dazed and so on. Nice to have, but I can't see the connection to an especially lawful patron in this. Shouldn't this be a feature of a helath patron or something like this?

Finally, the sin patron hex invokes guilt in its victims. So your sin patron suggests that sins are wrong? Shouldn't his witches promote sin and enhance them instead?

Finally we get three new archtypes, the devoted witch, the green witch and the storyteller.

The devoted witch gets the first and second domain power of clerics for the price of hexes, Here I miss the normal rule-language like 'witch levels instead of cleric levels', which is a bit sloppy. Also, since they must chose the divine patron, they are more like clerics then they are witches any more, just the spells are different and they can't channel.

The green witch has some fitting patrons or can use the divine patron, but here the author tried to fit too much under a hat. Woodland stride doesn't fit with fire domain or water, and winter is there without some thoughts about spring or the other seasons with fitting powers. And no benefits like no tracks in the snow or something like this for winter patrons? The animal shape ability is without synergy with the different patrons and domains also, its just the druids ability.

While the first two witches dive (it more than a dip, really) into cleric or druid, the storyteller replaces hexes with bardic abilities. I like the idea of having witches work with charisma instead of intelligence, but I'm not sure if the result of this archtype is just a weaker bard.

Conclusion:
There are nice ideas in this supplement, but some things are a bit sloppy and I don't get the reason behind some of the choices, like darkvision for a draconic patron, the sin hex or the orderly hex. If you want to have your witch combined with a cleric, druid or bard you should take a look at this supplement. I'll settle for 2.5 out of 5 stars, rounded down.

Have fun!


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Another fantastic adventure by Richard Develyn

5/5

This is a review for 'Journey to Cathreay', an adventure by Four Dollar Dungeons. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Journey to Cathreay has about a whooping 107 pages of information, including maps, handouts, pics and more (and a cover, OGL and so on). The adventure part alone is 67 pages long. It is for 4-6 PCs level 3 and gets the PCs to level 4 and covers a five week long journey with a caravan and what happens at the final destination of that treck. It's an adventure of investigation, social interaction and combat, so every character should have his moment to shine. The PCs are in for a great ride!

In the following content I tried to avoid spoilers, so players can continue to read and mybe persuade their GM to get this adventure.

A good adventue has to fulfill the following criteria in my eyes. Here are the details:

Easiness for the GM:
There are lots of helps for the GM, maps, handouts, scaling informations for bigger parties with a detailed sheet to adjust for 5 or 6 players. You'll get all the material you need for this adventure, down to every spell description for the magic the NPCs are using. There even is a section titled 'Burglar-like behaviour', giving us hardness of the wagons, the time to cut open a tent with a dagger and the perception scores of the draft animals among other things. Here is a writer who knows about PC behaviour! I especially like the Knowledge-check results for the monsters and the summaries of the checks with the DCs that are needed in every given section. A few more read-aloud descriptions for places or some of the persons would have been nice, especially for the contract deal that starts the adventure since this part is supposed to give some very subtle clues, which beginning GMs (and not just them) would find more then helpful. Now and then there is a minor thing like when in the background section 'destiny beckons' the PCs to go to that trip (page 4). But all of this is complaining on a very high level. On top, everything is printer friendly. I'm not sure if the adventure can be easily placed into any home campaign, but with a bit of adjustment by the GM it should be possible to find some suitable connected plains-desert-mountain regions a caravan could cross in 5 weeks with a typical Arabian-Nights-destination at the end. There are lots of thoughts presented in the adventure about how to modify the chain of events to either cope with PC mistakes and missing clues or tailoring the adventure to your player preferences. Well done indeed. Btw, the adventure doesn't use the caravan rules of Jade Regent.

Imaginative:
There are lots of ideas here, very memorable NPCs (I love Ctoniasta, Roco and Tegana most), all given with three different CRs for adventure-scaling purposes, and so on. I also like the details worked in, the animal handlers having Heart of the Fields in their traits for example, and the workers having a level in adept to use mending for minor repairs, create water for the desert part and sleep for troublesome animals. Even the draft animals have some personality here, and in a good way! There is a new reed-plant presented, which is no monster and somewhat a hazard, but the PCs will be annoyed by it even if they are able to use it for their own goals. I also love the dove idea on page 39 and the sparrows on page 47. The love toward details works on a greater scale also. The plan the bad guy has is very well thought out, logical in design and motive, and still with some weak points the PCs may detect and explore. We get lots of details how the plan is executed and how it is modified if troublesome PCs interfere. Very good work here!

Memorability:
We get a very good and seldomly used scenario with a caravan journey, a memorable bossfight, an arabian nights tale and everything else you'll wish for in an exotic adventure that will capture the imagination. The PCs will talk about this adventure for quite some time! Its also memorable for the GM, just reading the background of the NPCs, the tale about a certain competition or some of the side remarks (#10 on page 15 for instance) made me laugh out loud lots of times.

Player and Character Friendly:
In this adventure every type of player will have his moment of fun. In my eyes there are three types of players, those who want action (fights), those who want to have their brain challenged (puzzles, investigations, riddles) and those who want to role-play, which usually means peaceful interaction with interesting NPCs. Here we'll get all of the above, each type of character and player will have his or her moment to shine.

Conclusion:
I did say this some for Dance Macabre, the last adventure by Richard Develyn I reviewed, and I'll repeat it here verbatim: This is a fantastic product which has lots of details, cute ideas and flavor in abundance. I'll give it 5 stars out of five and the crown of achievment on top. Buy this adventure, you won't regret it!

Have fun!


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New Lycanthropes

4/5

This is a review for 'Bite: Me: Weremantises', a supplement by Misfit Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

'Weremantises' has a about 16 pages with some pics (and an OGL and so on).

After a few short words in general we are in for the Weremantis Racial Traits, which are nicely done without much surprises, except for their vulnerability to wolfsbane, which seems to affect many werecreatures, and their not suffering from full moons, which is odd for lycanthropes. Their beast form has a 7th level advancement like an animal companion which is not canon also, and the +8 on strength coming with this advancement feels a bit sudden, even if other things don't level up that much. A longer stretch would have been better in my eyes, like a +1 strength every other level or something like this. Getting large size and having lunge from the beginning gives a weremantis in primal form a lot of reach, and I see Combat Reflexes getting combined with this a lot even with Dex dropping by two with the advancement. There is a calculation here like the ARG introduced which settle the Weremantis at 13 RP, with the biggest chunks coming out of Lycanthropic resilences (5) and the Beast Form (6). Vulnerabilities (Silver and the mentioned wolfsbane) are at -6 RP, so you'll get some other stuff also which is counted in.

Now we go to the society of the Weremantis, which is extremly matriarchal (like the real insects, where the female occasionally eats the male) and Lawful Evil. No Team-Jacob-'Twilight' in here for those romantically inclined. The society is well thought out and done, and it is even reflected in the traits which differ between male and female weremantises. Its not easy to drop this society into an established campaign world, but it is manageable. The supplement suggest an island empire in the south, and I guess in Golarion the Shackles or the Red Mantis could incorporate a society like this.

Next we go to the race traits, which are, as mentioned before, divided between male and female, though some are for both genders. Its mentioned that with reasonable explaination females may take male traits and vice versa, I guess this is to appease some gender-sensitive people, but the difference between males and females make a lot of sense in a society based on the real world insect which differs from humans in many aspects. The three traits for both genders do feel a bit bland in my eyes consequently, but the gender-specific traits carry lots of fluff while having solid to good crunch also. This page is one of the best regarding the topic of traits I've seen in a long time.

The three new archtypes coming next are also divided by gender, but they fall short in my eyes. The Alchemical Lycanthrope gets an evolution point per level to modify herself, which is too strong for me. The Mantis exile is quick and can't find traps, thats all that changes. The Mantis Monk is just an adaption to the insectile form. All three archtypes are a quarter page only, which shows how few adjustments are made. The new Consumption subdomain reflects that mate-eating habit, but is a bit bland. Finally, the Weremantis favorite class benefits don't show the new ACG classes. Aside from this they are okay, though I don't get why Weremantis Inquisitors can be better with Knowledge or why Weremantis Oracles can avoid negativ impacts from curses so well. These benefits could have been more tied to the society the weremantis live in.

Now we'll come to the race specific feats, and we get eight of those. All are short, half a page all together. Two of those are about skill boni, but the other six are nice and well adapted to the mantis-theme.

The three equipments are a mixed bag again, Beetle powder is a drug with Cha damage as drawback (among others), which doesn't fit into the weremantis society as written since charisma is valued there. The Mantis Robes are great in fluff and crunch, while the slaver's Dart is nice, though the hybrid form isn't adressed regarding fitting it on the wrist.

The next topic are magic items, here we get four and an artifact. The amulet is a good item for werebeasts and normal species, the Ring of the Lover is great since it adresses a major problem the weremantis society has and I like good fluff. I'm on the fence with the gloves and the collar. While I assume a mantis could wear gloves, being able to will them to do something is a bit unspecific. Is it a free action? Swift? With the collar I wondered wether the additional saves are added toward the daily saves in regard of breaking the control. The artifact can be much fun for the GM to play with.

Now we have four racial spells, all of them good, I especially like the Cleansing Mist spell which has connections to the Red Mantis of Golarion. One spell summons a swarm of, you guessed it, mantises, and is aptly named 'Ten-Thousand Bites'.

Last but not least there are two weremantis characters, fully presented including their three forms (human, mantis, hybrid) and tactics, making use of the archtypes presented in the supplement and presented with pictures and even schemes and plots. Very good indeed, though there is a combat feat presented which is way too strong in my book, especially if the iterative attack penalty is -3 instead of -5 cumulativ (the text is unclear in this regard). The first attack of a fighter almost always hits, so the drawback of the feat is really minor.

Conclusion:
We get a well thought out new player race in this supplement, with a matching and well done society. Its a bit on the strong side though, with a high and abrupt power increase at level 7. With other features we have ups and downs, very good traits on one hand, bland archtypes on the other, but all in all there are lots of informations and ideas in this supplement and most of them are really well thought out with lots of supporting fluff to the crunch. Most of the things I critized can be easily adressed by the GM, so you may rate this supplement higher, but I'll for now settle in at 4 out of 5 stars.

Have fun!


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A weapon of Knowledge

4/5

This is a review for 'Treasures of NeoExodus: Infinite Fury', a supplement by Louis Porter Jr. Design. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Infinite Fury has a few lines of introduction and about 1.5 pages of content, followed by another page with a weapon card where you get two identical pics of the weapon, which also is shown in bigger on the front page, and the abilities of the weapon and a blank card for your own thoughts. Additionally we get the OGL and so on.

First of all we get the history of the weapon (Fluff):
The history of the blade presented starts with the history of the wizard who made this longsword and his motives for building it. Its a nice and believable story which is easily included into any campaign whatsoever. Kal-Dor wanted to perfect himself and his weapon reflects this. Thumbs up for this!

Next in line is the Description and construction of the weapon (Fluff):
This part is only six lines long and doesn't provide much more infos than the nice pics already does. I would have liked more informations about that heart-shaped space in it, but this doesn't happen.

And finally we get the rules for the weapon (Crunch):
Infinite Fury is a very costly, about 170,000 gp, and very useful, weapon for all kind of adventurer parties. The big inside bonus on identification checks it gives is well balanced with the time it needs to be activated. The weapon grants Tactical Acumen also, but its not limited to the wielder, which is a nice ability, but isn't matched by the blade's history. Also the history talks about learning combat maneuvers, which aren't reflected in the weapon's abilities (aside from it being defensive).

Conclusion:
I'll give the supplement 4 stars out of 5, my main complains being the high cost which limits including it into anything but high level campaigns, and the Tactical Acumen ability which works, by the spell, for allies also, and this is not rooted in the history part. On the other hand the concept of Infinite Fury is well done and will be a well received addition in the PCs arsenal. It would be great if Infinite Fury could be changed into one of those 'Growing items' Pathfinder Unchained and Purple Duck introduced to get the weapon into a mid-level campaign or even earlier.

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A flower swarm and more

4/5

This is a review for 'Deadly Gardens Volume 2: Blood Rose Swarm', a supplement by Rusty Iron Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Deadly Gardens Volume 2 has a 3.5 pages with a nice pics (and a cover, OGL and so on).

First of all, while this supplement is supposedly about a Blood Rose Swarm, said monster is just a page long, while we get on two and a half more pages 4 alchemical items, 2 natural hazards, 1 new poison, 5 terrain types and 2 magical items, most of which have nothing to do with a Blood Rose Swarm and sometimes even the connection with a garden theme seems a bit stretched, with steep screes, rockslides and sinkholes for instance. Now the ideas presented here are good, but the title is a bit of a misnomer and may not fullfill the expectation of buyers.

On we go toward a detailed look at the contents.

First we start with 4 alchemical items which fill the first page. Those four are Calming Pollen (plants go dormant for a time), Clearwater Drops (unsurprisingly they clears water), Tough-Husk Oil (gives plants DR/Slashing for a time) and Vita Growth (gives plants fast healing for a time). All 4 are good and I especially like some details like Clearwater Drops changing the taste of the water they cleared. Whats odd, though, is the time it takes to apply Tough-Husk oil and Vita-Grow to the plant crature: A full round action regardless of size. So I can oil up a huge tree creature in a full round and need the same time for a small flower? The mammoth treant will like this. Further, its a SA 'if the creature is intelligent enough to apply the oil itself'. Okay, aside of the fact that an intelligence score would be helpful here (Int 3? Int 5?), I see problems for handless plants doing this and I assume even if drunk somehow the oil would take more time to reach every single twig in a few seconds by natural ways. Also, since the featured monster of this supplement is a swarm ,no clues to apply the goodies to swarm, creatures are included, though I'd assume you can't apply anything of the given alchemical items to enhance or combat the Blood Roses, which is odd.

Next we get to the title monster itself, the Blood Rose Swarm. This is a well done creature, which has solved the speed problem plants usually have in a nice way and has well explained camouflage and alluring scent combined with a blood thinning poison to overwhelm its prey. All well thought of, though I'd have liked a line or two how the distraction ability works with flowers or if the fascination coming with the alluring scent is ended automatically when the swarm does damage to the victim. Those are minor things though. I like how the Blood Rose oil can be harvested and used as a poison, but since most poisons are medicine in small quantities I'd have loved to see a line about this also. But all in all the title-monster is very well done and will be used against my unsuspecting players.

Natural Hazards are the next topic, and here we get two. Both Sinkhole and Rockslide are well done, though I'd probably limiting Sinkhole to creatures size S and upwards, but that's just me. About these hazards fitting in a garden I did comment above already.

Next are 5 terrain types, and they all shine. We get Kudzu, a vine growing everywhere and thus giving difficult terrain, but also concealment for small creatures. You'll want to climb both Scree and Deep Scree first, for the pebbles you lose will affect those coming behind you in unkind ways. Nice idea. Thicket and Deep Thicket both provide concealment, hamper movement and do damage, but armor reduces this damage. Again, well done.

Last but not least are two new magic items, the Cloak of Fallen Leaves gives concealment for movement-AoOs and the Quickgrow Beans straight out of a fairy tale are a spell-in-a-can.

Conclusion:
All in all this is a supplement well done, with some clarifications missing but good and useful ideas. The title is a bit misleading as I pointed out above. I'd have liked the items, hazards and so on tied more to the title of the product, the Cloak of Fallen Leaves could easily have worked but with Blood Rose Petals or something like this. I'll settle for 4 out of 5 stars, but the gaps I did find are easily fillable.

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Writing Equipment to be avoided

1/5

This is a review for 'More Mighty Than Steel', a supplement by Skortched Urf Studios. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

More Mighty Than Steel has one and a half pages with no pics. It consists of 6 magical items and 3 additional minor artifacts. I didn't find out when this product was written, but since there 'expenditure of experience points' are mentioned I'm guessing at times way before Pathfinder. While there were some great products those days which are still useful in Pathfinder, this supplement sadly isn't one of those.

Out of the 6 magical items presented, two are spells in a can (Symbol of Pain and Secret Page), one is a Secretary in a can (a pen that takes notes), two are way outdated (expenditure of experience points and the tattoo ink is better covered in Inner Sea Magic) and the last one, Ink of Summoning, has a nice idea but is unbalanced.

The three minor artifacts are even worse. They make fun of the old Rock-Paper-Scissors game, but in a bad way. The Knife of Paper Cutting is able to – cut paper. And nothing else. In my mind every magical slashing weapon should be able to do that, I even have some knifes here at my home able to do that (I own artifacts in Real Life, yeah me!) and even if not one could simple tear the paper apart with ones hands instead of using a CL 16 artifact.
The Paper of Stone Bindung is unbalanced since you can use it unlimited, which enables you to destroy stone walls brick by brick of you have the time.
The Stone of Knife Crushing assumes all Weapon do have Will Saves, Nothing more to say about this.

Conclusion:
Sadly this product lacks big time, and not only for being old, some things in it are rather stupid. I give it 0.5 star out of 5, but rounding down doesn't work on this platform, so its 1 out of 5 stars.

Have fun!


A Protean Pantheon

3/5

This is a review for 'Protean Lords of Porphyra', a supplement by Purple Duck Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Protean Lords of Porphyra has about 22 pages of information with a 12 nice pics, namely the symbols of the 12 protean gods presented (and a cover, table of content and so on).

The supplement starts with great fluff about the Slytherin Symphony, i.e. the Protean Patheon and why they have decided to take influence on the world; in this case the world of Porphyra, but its easily changeable into your own world if you don't play this setting. Use it if you have the chance, its that good!

Next there are the 12 protean gods, all Chaotic Neutral of course, though some have good or evil tendencies from their background, and every one has a full page entry. This page is composed out of the Portfolio (Domains, Subdomains, Favored Weapon…), half a page about the legend of this particular god, and some informations about the church and the necessary Spell Preparation Ritual. The page ends with two traits tailored for this particular god. The fluff in these part of the supplement is good, the traits are nice and fitting, though nothing special. All in all the 12 gods are well done and interesting.

The next part presents the three new subdomains of Intuition, Mayhem and Wild Magic, all of them good, though they use some of the new spells presented later where I do have some objections. The replacement powers are well done and fitting, and generally I like that the new stuff is included here.

The following sections has 11 new magic items, and those are a mixed bag. Generally they are all very expensive, the cheapest are 10,000 and 18,000 gp, but 5 are 90,000 and higher. I generally like the cheaper stuff better since PCs are actually going to see some of those, but your view may vary. I enjoyed the Belt of Broken Laws (temporary ignore SR, DR and energy resisitance) and the Crown of Fickle Strength (randomly determined ioun stones which change after a time) very much, and the Amulet of the Missionary Worm (Cha-ceck boon and Chaos Hammer) and the Sibilant Band (whispers constantly, granting you a moral bonus and others a malus on concentration) are nicely done. The others are not my cup of tea, though. Generally they are too expensive, but sometimes they don't fit the theme too well (why a crystal ball with a non-random Reshape Reality?) or they are strangely worded, like the new ioun stone which has no storeable spell levels mentioned. Should they be all level 1, it would be cheaper to just buy 10 pearls of power for 10,000 gp instead of paying the 100,000 gp the item does cost. The warpwave table is nice for chaotic effects and should have been used more for some of the spells for instance.

Finally there are 12 new spells. 4 are nice, 3 are good - Limbo's Fickle Blessing with its pro-chaos-bubble could need some random mayhem for lawful characters inside, but Limbo's Grip and Lawbane Bubble are fitting ideas for the theme. Voidworm swarm is great, a simple idea but very fitting. But in this section are some flaws also. Why does Skill-Thief's Touch as a chaos-spell attack a designated skill instead of a random one? Why does the Song of Weeping Regeneration have the Chaotic descriptor, when all it does is a mass vampiric effect? And an overpowered one at that… The biggest problem are the two Befuddling Infusion spells (one normal, one Greater). The normal spell is in essence a confusion spell, attachable to a normal spell, swift and without save if you put it on top of, say, a Magic MIssile. In the fourth level, exactly where the normal confusion spell is located – broken in my eyes. The Greater variant, sixth level, attaches it to an area spell. Obscuring Mist with confusion, no save allowed? Not in my book, sorry.

Conclusion:
Protean Lords is rooted in Porphyra, as the title says, but it is not much work to change it to your own setting. There is some good stuff in this supplement, and some bad. Generally if you love fluff and high level campaigns this is great for you, I myself am tempted to use the pantheon in a law vs chaos-campaign as a twist of the usual good vs evil stuff. If you are more into crunch and/or low level campaigns, or have a fixed and rigid pantheon already, this is not so useful at your table.
All in all I'll give it 3 out of 5 stars, but its much better for those groups I mentioned above.

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Nice variant Alchemy

4/5

This is a review for 'Krazy Kragnars Alchemical Surplus Shop', an older but still interesting supplement by Super Genius Games (todays Rogue Genius Games). I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Krazy Kragnars Alchemical Surplus Shop is about 8 pages long with some nice pics (and a cover, OGL and so on). It is, aside from a few thoughts about using alchemy in the game and malfunctioning items, mostly about 37 new alchemic items with cost and crafting DCs. Of those we get three cathegories:

- Variants of things well known, like Unholy Water and their counterparts versus the lawful and chaotic. Those are generally a bit uninspired, I'd have liked to see what happens if this stuff is used versus a paladin, clerics and other people with fitting auras or something like that.

- Mundane things from our world translated into fantasy, like itching pulver or the Brazier Mug, which works like our batteries do, just with causing heat instead of electricity. The Charge Flask works also similar to this. We even get Dawnleaf to smoke, so we know now how the Indians did their peace negotiations in the Wild West. Some of these ideas are a bit odd, some nice (Firegut Ale vs the cold and the Dragonrod-one-use-flamethrower), some are just a spell in a can, like the Fog Bomb.

- New ideas, where this supplement really shines, like the Doomhammer and the Mummy Leaches, which ooze fantasy. I like the Shocklash having a failure possibilty tied in and the use of the charge flask and amber coil to work it, and I think the White Salve is a good way to counter a big problem.

Thoughts about improving the material:
Its a mixed and somewhat unsorted bag of ideas, but all in all the ideas behind the material are mostly good ones. I'd have liked to see informations about the damage a Boompot would cause (we all know what tends to happen on the last day of the year in our world with these things), if the Landvines are able to entangle a big creature also, if animal-based biology includes humans (for Itching Dust; I guess yes, but what about all the other creature cathegories?), or what happens if the saving throw for the Iron Soup fails (when is the 'victim' able to try again? Never? There are soups where this can happen out there in the stores!) and how long this soup is eatable at all. Sometimes the costs are a bit off, e.g. its easier to buy a wand of Cure Light Wounds (15 gp for a dose of 1d8+1 healing) instead of a dose of, say, Golden Salve (conditional 1d4 for 10gp)

Conclusion:
The title of this supplement is somewhat misleading. You don't get crazy stuff, like malfunctioning salves or something like that, but useful items, some thoughts about alchemy in a magical world and at the gaming table, and only a short note about saving throws for spoiled alchemy. While this is nice in itself, its not what the title or the introduction is suggesting, and this is a big fault in my book.
Of the useful items, most of them are nice and worth using, some great. The unclear things I mentioned are easily fixed by the GM, and all in all I like alchemy on my table, so I'll give this supplement 4 out of 5 stars.

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A very memorable adventure!

5/5

This is a review for 'Dance Macabre', an adventure by Four Dollar Dungeons. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Dance Macabre has about 86 pages of information, including, maps, handouts, pics and more (and a cover, OGL and so on). It is for 4-6 PCs levels 2 and gets the PCs to level 3 in about 2 or 3 gaming sessions. There is a free preview pdf on paizo if you want to get an impression yourself. It's an adventure of a solvable investigation, gothic horror and some comical relief in between. The PCs are in for a great ride!

The following content includes some minor spoilers, so players shouldn't continue to read.

A good adventue has to fulfill the following criteria in my eyes. Here are the details:

Easiness for the GM:
There are lots of helps for the GM, maps, handouts, scaling informations for bigger parties, even a guide to a town for the PCs and a clue map for the GM for the investigation to have all the hints (and possible problems with them) at hand. You'll get all the material you need for this adventure, down to every spell description for the magic the NPCs are using. I especially like the Knowledge-check results for the monsters. A few more descriptions for rooms or some of the persons would have been nice, like a descriptions of the missing daughters by their father as a handout or read-aloud. Now and then there is a shortcut missing, like on page 15 where the Perfumed Garden is mentioned, a hint for page 32 would have been nice here. But all of this is complaining on a very high level, since almost half the pagecount is for handouts and so on. On top, everything is printer friendly and can be easily placed into any home campaign.

Imaginative:
There are lots of ideas here, an iconic town, memorable NPCs and so on. Even the costumes for the social main event are described in detail. The alchemists uses Ray of Frost and Prestidigitation for some interesting enhancements to his alcohol for example, and there are lots of such ideas in this product. We get pictures for some events and buildings. Since this is a gothic horror adventure mostly, the atmospere is especially important, and here it works very nicely.

Memorability:
We get a very good town, a memorable bossfight and everything else you'll wish for in an adventure. It also has an interesting view on 'evil'. There are the normal monsters in it of course, but the conflict does go deeper than this, and I'm very interested in how my players are going to cope with certain town people for their view of the world. Oh, and no shortcut for the paladins on this topic, you need a high level or an aura like a cleric to be detected as evil by our holy warriors, so most of the time the players will have to figure everything out by themselves.
The PCs will talk about this adventure for quite some time!

Player and Character Friendly:
In this adventure every type of player will have his moment of fun. In my eyes there are three types of players, those who want action (fights), those who want to have their brain challenged (puzzles, investigations, riddles) and those who want to role-play, which usually means peaceful interaction with interesting NPCs. Here we'll get all of the above, each type of character and player will have his or her moment to shine.

Conclusion:
This is a marvelous product which has lots of details, cute ideas and flavor in abundance. I'll give it 5 stars out of five and the crown of achievment on top. Buy this adventure, you won't regret it!

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A memorable villain

5/5

This is a review for 'Forces of Darkness: Zunirei of the 1000 Eyes', a supplement by Misfit Studios. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Zunirei of the 1000 Eyes has 10 pages of text with some nice pics, one of those a full page (and a cover, table of content and so). Since this supplement is about an NPC and includes everything the PCs are bound to unsurface using detective methods or other in-game methods, the following contains SPOILERS. Please don't read further if you are a player!

Zunirei was sold into slavery in a brothel while still being a child, but thrived there, becoming a spy for her country and then a double agent. Her motives were not money, but spreading chaos, pain and suffering by leaking the secrets she learned with her profession. When caught and executed she was reincarnated into a succubus by the forces of the Abyss.
Up to this point her story is nicely done, but nothing too unusual for a fantasy environment. That changes when she was summoned by a wizard and bound into his tattoo. She managed to escape and now spreads those tattoos herself, while not revealing that she can manipulate them with her powers. Unsurprisingly tattoos are a good part of the following content.

In the supplement we get informations regarding her history, schemes, allies, a living tattoo statblock (its a CR 2 construct), a CR 12 'normal' and a CR 15/MR 6 mythic version of Zunirei herself and notes how to use her in a campaign.

I'll start my review with the not-perfect parts.
There are too few versions of Zunerei, I'd love to see her at a lower CR.

I'm on the fence for these ones:
The mythic version of Zunirei doesn't add that much flavor to her 'normal' self, which is too bad. On the other hand her normal version is so well thought of that adding to it would have been difficult. Still, a really new way to use her tatttoos would have been appreciated. We get this in Tattooed Exchange, but the reach of this power seems a bit much for me. I can envision it for combat, though, in a very iconic way.

On to the good things:
The part of Zunirei's allies and minions needs to be fleshed out to be easily droppable in a campaign. The GM has much to do here to make it playable. That said, her allies are bound into her tactics and strategies nicely, with, for example, doppleganger allies impersonating her to ensure that the artists Zunirei has 'married' are well cared for while she can seduce other persons or ferret out more secrets. With her knowledge of secrets Zunirei uses shadow demons to possess her opponents loved ones as hostages. Her gemstone talons, disguised as fingernails and good weapons themselves, she uses for her tattoos instead of needles. All her special abilities center around her tattoo-experience, and such a nice concept alone make buying this supplement worthwhile.

And finally, the great ones:
- As I said above, Zunirei's background story is nicely crafted, a well of believable and interesting details explaining many of her actions;
- the 6 hooks about using her in your campaign are well thought out and make me itch using them;
- The living tattoos themselves are great, with some cute ideas how they disguise themselves, how they react to attacks and so on. I won't delve into more details here, save to say that they don't do hit point damage to their victims – they don't need to, they have other ways to annoy and endanger them, and all of them are subtle. A very nice concept to occupy the PCs in a very different way!

Conclusion:
If there would be another lower level version of her included and one or two fleshed out allies of her, maybe some special tattoos of the non-living variant to complement the supplement it would have easily gotten the 5 stars and the crown of approvement. But all in all you get so many great ideas how to use her and her speciality, and it is something totally new and creepy what she does, Zunerei has gotten a special place in my GM.heart quickly. So I'll give her 5 stars out of five. Well done!

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Start of a Northland Saga

3/5

This is a review for 'Vengeance of the 'Long Serpent', part 1 of the Northland Saga which is currently 4 adventures long, and an adventure by Frog God Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

'Vengeance of the 'Long Serpent' has 17 pages of information with three black and white pics (and a cover, table of content and so). It is for levels 5-7 and gets the PCs to level 6-8. The whole 4 adventures published so far take the PCs to level 9-11.

The adventure plays in the far north, what would be the arctic circle in our world.

The following content includes spoilers, so players shouldn't continue to read!

Start (4 Pages): The product starts with a short description of the Northlands, the adventure background with a nice history of the region, and finally adventure summary and hooks. The adventurers are included with nice read aloud passages.
The Voyage North (3 pages): Here are 11 Random Encounters (one of them 'No encounter') and three events for the sea voyage north.
Exploring the Far North (7 pages): This is a gazeteer of a coastal arctic region with a few scetched villages, some generic inhabitants, one fleshed out encounter and a random encounter table for the tundra. A nice sandbox (or is it icebox?) that can be included in other adventure paths that touch the North, like the one of a Destined Empress or that one where a certain season reigns.
Against the Children of Althunak (3 pages): Here an evil cult is presented, with some cultist stats and their fleshed out High Priests, including some thoughts about strategies and tactics.

A good adventue has to fulfill the following four criteria in my eyes. Here are the details:

Spoiler:

Easiness for the GM:
Is it easy to master, are for example no player maps included so the master has to redraw the map with the secret doors? Are there informations on how to play it when your group has more or less people or more or less players, or do I have to rewrite lots of things for my homegame? In case of a pdf, is there a big border that eats all my ink or is there a printer-friendly version included? Are there Handouts? Can I fit the adventure into my home world or are goblins suddenly the greatest magic users in the world, while all elves are evil?

Imaginative:
Did I have room description? Read Aloud texts that provide some atmosphere? Pictures fitting the scenario? You almost always get a cover pic, but sometimes it doesn't fit the adventure at all. Is the map detailed?

Memorability:
Is the Big Bad Evil Guy (or girl) memorable? Do players remember his or her name during the adventure, or even years afterwards? How about the other NPCs? Queen Ileosa out of Curse of the Crimson Throne is a good example of a memorable NPC, the fey-villain of Kingmaker isn't, in her case due to a lack of foreshadowing and other things. Do the players remember the location, like fighting in a tower that rolls down a hill? Or is the final battle in an Adventure Path a room 30x30 feet, one door, no furniture?

Player and Character Friendly:
Has every type of player his moment of fun? In my eyes there are three types of players, those who want action (fights), those who want to have their brain challenged (puzzles, investigations, riddles) and those who want to role-play, which usually means peaceful interaction with interesting NPCs. This usually also reflects in the PCs themselves: Does every type of character has his or her moment to shine? Is the skill monkey needed? The range attacker, or is every monster just lurking directly behind a door? Is the speed-guy useful? Is there a third dimension, so the sorcerer can use his fly-spell? Does he need his other non-combat spells?

Easiness for the GM:
Here we lack some useful things, like environmental factors. A short hint toward the rules for moving in snow, snowstorms or something like this would have been nice. The random encounters are neat, they fit the group level and evoke a nice ice-age feeling (not that movie, the real ice age!).
The strategic part for the GM, in this case the defense of occupied villages and a temple, leave a lot of work to do for the GM. At least the suggested ambush could have been fleshed out.
The product is printer-friendly, has handouts and will fit into most gaming worlds since you only need an arctic coast.

Imaginative:
The three interior black and white pics don't do much to help imagine what happens, but are nicely done. The read-alouds are good, and playing in the arctic will be a nice change for most parties.

Memorability:
There are no environmental hazards, memorable sights, interesting flora, cultural impressions or whatever that would be a change to an inuit village of our world, or at least the cliché of how one would be like. The ice-age elements that are represented in the random encounters have no connection to the villages themselves. Why not build the huts out of the teeth of the mammoths for example? The NPCs, friend or foe, also are a somewhat generic, as are their tactics in fending of the PCs.

Player and Character Friendly:
There are nice elements of roll- and role-playing provided, and the strategically and tactically minded players will have something to do with organizing an assault on a temple, raids at a coast and so on. Since it is an open sandbox with lots of options how to procede, all manners of characters will have their moment to shine. PCs should take care not to assault the problems head-on, a hit-and-run tactic will be more wise for this adventure – which is a good thing in my book.

Conclusion:
This adventure has some solid parts, a nice setting and a good history, but it needs to be fleshed out much more and it needs some unique parts that steer the imagination. All in all I'll settle for three out of five stars.

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Great Monk Improvement

5/5

This is a review for 'Monk Unfettered', a supplement by Henri Hakl Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Monk Unfettered has 35 pages and many nice pics (and a cover, OGL and so).

The basic idea of this supplement is to give the monk options, and it succeeds at this by introducing insights which function a bit like rogue talents or rage powers in so far as there are deep and basic insights, The difference is you can take the deep insights early on, but are limited in using them. All in all 6 bonus feats and 8 special abilities are taken away, and 11 insights are added to each character, which is a nice balance since you can tailor the insights to fit your concept. Good work! Oh, and did I mention there are 152 chooseable insights available? Yes, 152, and almost all are at least good, some great. You can construct any character build you want with a well of possibilities like this. Of those 152, 6 are the special abilities monks lost due to the addition of insights, so if you want you can rebuild most of the standard monk with this new systems also, though you'll have to replace the bonus feats with complimentary insights, which should be possible in most cases.

The other main change is about flurry of blows, generally speaking you get less attacks with them but are more likely to hit, since all are equal in strength and tied to your BAB. While mathematically the hits you are likely to achieve with both methods are about equal, the misses are reduced with this method. Mathematics to prove this claim are included, and while I'm no mathemagician (pun intended) to verify it, at least it reduces the attack time at the table if someone can roll many dices at once instead of one after another with different change modifiers on each. Also, who doesn't like to roll many dices at once, like in a fireball?

Like the changes in flurry of blows some other changes are explained on three pages as well, for example the high movement but full attack for flurries, and are adressed with the insights. There are even suggested combination to take full advantages of some ideas and a reference table for the insights.

Last but not least there are some full basic builds for inspiration or to use as NPCs, fully fleshed out with a picture, Before Combat, During Combat and Morale lines, suggested encounters and so on. All in all we get 7 monks ranging from CR ½ to CR 18, every one of them about a page long.

On top of that, we get new toys like feats, lots of favored class boni (surprisingly none of them race.tied), new magic items and thoughts about using the existing archtypes with the new changes.

Now, normally you would read in my reviews about things I liked and those I don't, but in this supplement almost everything is good or even very good, so I just go to the part of minor complains and questions which are mostly easily fixed.

Thoughts about improving the material:
- The supplement could use a table of content. Its heavily bookmarked, which is another plus on my list, but if you have printed it a table would make it more easy to handle;
- there are four levels where nothing special does happen when you reach them, no special ability, no better BAB, damage or whatever. All are uneven luckily, so you get a feat like every other class does in those levels, but design-wise I'd I'd let slow fall happen a level later in all cases just to fill the blanks. Obviously this is a very minor complain;
- with the allowed weapons being identical with the Core Rulebook a chance was missed in my eyes, I'd have included other weapons out of Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Equipment or some other product here;
the same happens with the maneuvers you can substitute in a flurry, I'd have added reposition to that list;
- the Ex-Monk section is contrary to the Beyond Order feat that is introduced later on which does allow non-lawful monks. I'd rule that the feat superceeds, but its not mentioned, and it would be interesting to know what would happen if the character took the feat later on. Will he be a full monk again?
- Flawless Mantra should be renamed into Advice, Flawless or something like that, so the connection to the Advice-insights is more easy to find;
- likewise Maneuver Training should be renamed, since the Core monk does have an ability with the same name, but different mechanics, which may confuse;
- sometimes the 'Meditation Insight' is named as a requirement, but there are insights like Meditation of the Beast. Do they qualify?
- With Drunken Master the penalty is a poison effect. What is the synergy with Diamond Body? Also a reference to the alcohol-rules in the Core Rulebook would have been nice;
- are reach melee attacks included in the damage of Elemental Awakening Fire?
- Why is Elemental Mastery Water limited to enemies, but Fire isn't?
- Why does Faster Movement end with level 17? Wouldn't be +10 feet an acceptable choice?
- Kyton Pact, fourth line: 50 what? Hp, I assume;
- Does Monkey foot count against the movement of the current round or the next round like the feat Step Up does?
- The table on page 3 is a bit lower on the page than it should be. Asura Curse and Accurate Self should both be deep insights (they have the asterisk).

All in all you see I'm nitpicking here – it tells about how little is wrong if I mention such things as I do above. My two a bit bigger complaint are about the Improved Wholeness of Body Insight, it turns the monk too much into a healer in my eyes, and the synergy of the various Cat-Insights with the feats Piranha Strike and Slashing Grace. I think here a failsave should be added to limit powerbuilding. Finally I'd tie the Favored Class Options to races, tagging on the better ones to classes with limited powers and vice versa can level the field a bit.

Conclusion:
All in all, the author claims this work being a labor of love, and it sure is. There is a lot of thoughts and experiences and, yes, love in these pages. I can wholly recommend buying it. I never played a monk myself, nor was I ever interested in playing one, but this supplement makes me want to try one. For this, its 5 of 5 stars and the the first time I'll give out the crown of approvement. Great work!

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Archtypes for every class

5/5

This is a review for 'Bite Me: Archtypes', a supplement by Misfit Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Bite Me: Archtypes consists of 10 pages of information with some nice pics (and a cover, table of content and so on). There is a full color and a printer friendly version both.

The supplement has 18 archtypes, one for every class out of the Core Rulebook, the APG and Ultimate Magic, with the exception of Sorcerer, but they get a new bloodline (Lykanthropic). So there is something for almost everyone here to check out. The Bite Me series being what it is the focus naturally lies on lycanthrops, but this is not a supplement for archtypes for lykanthrops only as one may think, but everything from emulating them (alchemist) to fighting them (inquisitor) or something in between (ranger). In addition we get 7 new hexes, a new clerical subdomain and three new Rogue talents. You don't need any other product of the Bite Me series to use this supplement.

All in all we get the following Archtypes:
Lycanthologist (Alchemist)
Feral Rager (Barbarian)
Soother of the Savage (Bard)
Wild Rider (Cavalier)
Moon Templar (Cleric)
Lycanthropic Soul (Druid)
Master of Tooth, Nail and Sword (Fighter)
Avenging Gun (Gunfighter)
Hunter of the Damned (Inquisitor)
Clawed Magus (Magus)
Master of Inner Turmoil (Monk)
Lunar Prophet (Oracle)
Holy Beast (Paladin)
Beast Warden (Ranger)
Bestial Infiltrator (Rogue)
Moonlight Summoner (Summoner)
Werelock (Witch)
Feral Caster (Wizard).

I'll start my review with the not-perfect parts.
- The Lycanthropic Soul (Druid) is a somewhat bland archtype which gives DR silver and spontaneous beast shape spells. You also get a variant of summon nature's ally for lycanthrops. All are nice additions with a pack hunting concept in mind, but not very innovativ. I'd have thought about flanking boni or some of those things the hunter gets in the ACG.
- The Avenging Gun (Gunfighter) gets a Silver Bullet, which is a nice name for changing your bullet into silver, and a Favored Enemy among a very few other things. Not enough to make it interesting and digging too deep into ranger territory.
- The Hunter of the Damned (Inquisitor) is very cornercase, since she specializes against shapeshifters and is weakened against any other opponent. But even in an adventure featuring shapeshifters her ability to detect shapeshifters can wreck havoc to an investigation, so I don't recommend this archtype.
- The Moonlight Summoner (Summoner) gets his eidolon more and more werebeast-like with this archtype, but it costs him evolution points. Since the eidolon spreads lycanthropy at some point and there is too much 'you have to spend on this' in the text I'm not a fan of this archtype.

I'm on the fence for these ones:
- The Feral Rager (Barbarian) is a so-so archtype which lets you play a part-time lycanthrop. It gains DR silver and extra rage along with a loss of brain, making it possible that he may attack his allies. I'm generally not fond of this as a player character, since nothing can sour a game table like one PC killing another, but he is of course still useable as an NPC. The complimenting rage powers are nice and the animal side of them is modified to be better than usual.
- The Soother of the Savage (Bard) isn't limited to lycanthrops as one may think, but useful in other situations also. His 3 new performances add AC and saving throw boni; get your opponents sickness or stops rage or similar effects. The last two performances are better when lycanthrops are involved, but are useful in other situations also, though sometimes a bit cornercase. The bard archtype adds some new emotion spells to his list and is at keeping his own emotions under control. Generelly a nice archtype, but nothing that gets you into praise-chanting.
- A Lunar Prophet (Oracle) gets two new revelation, one of which she has to take at first level and which gives her a bit of prophecy, the other a bit cornercase but with a nice flavor, and bonus spells to replace the usual ones. All in all nice, but nothing to pounce on.
- A Beast Warden (Ranger) can fight or protect lycanthrops. She can identify them, has favored enemy for shapeshifters, but also Hunters Bond where she can delegate her favored enemy bonus to her companions or take lycantropes as cohorts. She also gets Leadership for lycanthropes only. I'm not a big fan of leadership and I also don't like detection abilities for investigative adventures, but this archtypes may be interesting in a NPC, and not necessarily as an opponent.

On to the good things:
- The Wild Rider (Cavalier) is a lycanthrop that shares his inner beast with his mount. It gets pumped up with trample, the natural attacks of its rider and rage. It is indeed an archtypes that only enhances the mount, the character gets nothing for himself, which makes this archtype really unique. Definitly something for a GM to throw at his party for the looks that produces, but also easy to add to an existing cavalier lykanthrop in case you have to prepare for an additional player, since you only have to modify his mount. On the other hand, there aren't that many cavalier lycanthrops around in prepared adventures. If you want to hear your party scream 'attack the mount, not the rider' and don't want to master Dragonlance, then here you go!
- The Master of Tooth, Nail and Sword (Fighter) is a fearsome addition for your were-characters who likes to fight in hybrid form. It focuses on enhancing the natural attacks while fighting with a weapon in a full round action. A nice, styleful archtype.
- The Clawed Magus (Magus) works with magical fang and gets it quickened later on. He can use her arcane pool for her natural attack at the price of most of her armor. I haven't seen a magus in play recently so I don't know if this works out, but I guess it could in the right build.
- A Master of Inner Turmoil (Monk) is working best in hybrid form, when she can add her bite to flurrys and other attacks. She also heals better and gets DR silver. I like this build for the flavor and roleplaying potential.
- The Bestial Infiltrator (Rogue) can boost dexterity for a time and has his perception and initiative enhanced. The first ability can be increased with two advanced rogue talents, another one gives the rogue an animal companion. The name of this archtype is misleading, since he is no infiltrator and has little of a beast in it. I think storywise she may have had a cat or werecat somewhere in her family tree. This is a strong archtype in my opinion, easily takeable for there is not much to sacrifice for some nice boosts. I like the talents and the rogue can use a boost in general,
- The Feral Caster (Wizard).is simple but straight, enhancing the wizard to speak with animals and gain natural spell along with beast shape, which also increases in length. Nice, though I would have restricted everything to a special group of animal like canines or something like that.

And finally, the great ones:
- The Lycanthologist (Alchemist) ist a great archtype based on the beastmorph archtype out of Ultimate Combat. It grants Beast Shape abilities that are replaceable with DR silver. You are restricted to specific animals and the archtype has a nice flair, failsaves and points toward fitting discoveries. I had to smile though when the example for building was a canine and the discoveries were wings and tentacles, but of course those do fit for different animals to build on. Or for your flying chthulu-wolf that you have to convince your GM to allow.
- The Moon Templar (Cleric) is both able to fight lycanthrops and to support them with her channels affecting the werebeasts like undead, with enhanced healing and damage potential for her channels included. She has to take the new lunar subdomain, which has madness as its parent, a nice ability and very fitting spells. The archtype has additional spontaneus casting for the replacement domain spells and more power when the moon is full. Playable as PC and NPC and good even outside of a specific werecampaign the archtype and the subdomain are both winners.
- The Holy Beast (Paladin) is written for those wanting to play the inner turmoil of a good heart in an evil (or at least animal) body, like a certain drow or some vampires who love diary-writers or sparkle in the sun. This time the evil body is very hairy, but under full control of its owner. The concept is interesting, giving the paladin an animal companion, some additional spells, extra smite damage against lycanthrops, an anti-lycanthrop aura and the usual DR silver. Its noteworthy that he is not necessarily a lycanthrope himself and can even be normal. I think the GM and the player will have to work on a storyline for a character like this, but it can have its rewards and it works outside a lycanthropic campaign. Maybe an archtype for the skindancer race or something similar? I put this concept in the great column, albeit a bit reluctantly.
- The lycanthropic bloodline is well done and shows that there has been some lycanthrop in the family line some time ago. Sorcerers with this blood can summon animals that are a bit more ferocious than usual and have DR 1/silver, and the sorcerer himself gets more and more lycanthropic abilities, until he changes into one at 20th level. Nice idea and well executed, though I wouldn't grant both the bonus spells 'aspect of the wolf' and 'aspect of the bear' for storyline reasons and maybe 'aspect of the beast' instead as an ability in place of one of them. Have fun trying a close-combat sorcerer with some hairy tendencies.
- The Werelock (Witch) is suitable for lycanthropes and gives her a familiar with a hybrid and an animal form – and a nice pic showing how that looks like. Want a familiar wich can use weapons and armor? Want to play a certain cat with boots? Here you go, at least for a limited time a day. The archtype also gets natural spell and limited spellcasting, and it counts as monster and can chose their feats. A nice idea that is funny and balanced in my eyes. There are also 5 normal and one major hexes for the werelock only which mostly enhances her familiar. Another mayor hex is for anyone and is aptly named Dire Familiar.

Thoughts about improving the material:
I'd add to the description for this product, for before I read it I had the misleading impression that further supplements of the Bite-Me-Series would be needed to use the material. Additionally, a short description that both archtypes to boost lycanthropic characters, archtypes to fight them and archtypes to play them diluted are content of the supplement.

Conclusion:
So we get 4 great archtypes, one great bloodline, 6 good archtypes, 4 so-so and 4 archtypes I didn't like, which all in all is a very good deal. I think the supplement is more useful for the GM than for players, but you may look at the specifics to decide for yourself. There is enough stuff in here for everyone, and quite literary every basic class of the game. My final verdict clocks in at 4.5 stars, five great ideas pushing this barely into 5 stars for the purpose of this platform.

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Great stuff for Investigators

5/5

This is a review for 'Ongoing Investigantions: Character Options for Investigators', a supplement by Alex Riggs and Joshua Zaback of Necromancers of the Northwest. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Ongoing Investigations has two parts, one with new archtypes, talents, feats and spell with about 18 pages, and a second part about how to create and run a mystery game with about 9 pages. so you'll get about 27 pages of information with five very nice pics, a few of them in color (and a cover, table of content and so).

Archtypes:
The supplements starts with 9 Archtypes, one where I'm on the fence, four good ones and four great Archtypes, which is exceptional.
- We first get the Addicted Inspector who is very able when on drugs. It's a great class I'll want to play myself, and it comes with 7 archtype-specific talents, all of them tated good or great. For instance, Narcotic Genius allows the use of two additional talents as long as the Investigator is drugged, and other talents are giving the Investigator dodge boni due to erratic movements or more intimidate or perception as long as he is stoned. Very flavorful, very thought out.
- Next is the Analyst, a slow and focused, very able if he has time at hand, but not to be rushed. Imagine an old professor as role model. A great class again.
- The Arcane Investigator, a good class who is better with spells then the base class, for he gets all the wizard spells as fomulae. Failsaves are here, of course, since it ends at level 6 and there are no more spells a day than usual. If you are going to investigate a magic mystery, he's your character of choice.
- The Corrupt Detective is another good class, useable for PCs also despite the name, and focused on being quick (and dirty).
- Next is the Dogged Investigator, a great class. Think of Alex Mahone in Prison Break 2. He focuses on hunting his one mark and nothing else. His Once and for All ability is very strong, but it comes with a price and again I have to praise the authors for having everything well balanced.
- The Gentleman Detective is a good class, well thougt of but a bit limited because he shines in society, which is not that common in adventures. He's for those players who prefer talkers to fighters. When he fights, he uses his fists. Imagine the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Junior.
- The Reactionists is the archtypes which changes the most of the base class, its a big swing and a big hit in my eyes. For instance Inspiration, the core feature of the Investigator, is gone. Instead we get lots of nice things to do with potions and acid, including damage over time with his studied strike variant, called Caustic Reaction. A mad scientist anyone?
- The Stealth Sleuth strikes from the shadows and caues sneak damage when doing so, a nice concept but more a ninja type as an investigator.
- The Truth Seeker is the final archtype, a good class and even good in a true detective adventure. This may sound odd, but sometimes you have to ban spells like ESP if you are trying to play those kind of adventures else they are solved in a moment. The Truth Seeker shines here without making everything a cake walk. I especially like his Vengeful Studied Strike, which forces the victim in a fight to answer truthfully or take lots of damage. Very iconic!
All in all, thumbs up for the archtypes!

Talents
Next we do get 15 new Investigator talents, all in addition to the 7 for the Addicted Investigator archtype. Out of these, none are bad, three are okay (Athletic Inspiration, Disabling Strike and Get the Point Across), 9 are good and three are great (Engineering Secret, History Lesson and Studied Redirection). There is a good variety here, some of the talents specialising the Investigator for the wilderness or the dungeon, playing with the knowledge skills in innovative ways, some of them do both. All of them add to the roleplaying and the flavor of the character. Fighting skills aren't advanced much, but there are helpful talents here also, as in Studied Redirection which sacrifices three inspirations to redirect an attack on you toward a different adjacend target.
All in all, thumbs up for the talents!

Feats
16 Feats are presented in the next part. Here we get a mixed bag. I don't like four of the feats, Follow Up is bland, Detective Agency is a Leadership variant (and I don't like the original), and Gut Instinct and Gut Reaction give boni if you have a 'hunch', but there is no mechanic with this name in the supplement or in the base class. Next we have 3 so-so feats which are a bit bland (Detective's eye and Rumor Monger) or very cornercase (See Right Through it).
Black Market Contacts and Underworld Contacts do have nice flavor for Investigators and are useful too. I think I have seen these two feats before, maybe they are reprints. Get on in Nature, Lay of the Land and Know Spirit specialices the Investigator for certain environments or situations in a nice way. But the winners in the cathegories are the feats I call nerd-feats and who have been judged 'great' by me if not for the cooperation needed by the GM, who'll have to invent lots of things on the fly when he has to talk about the inventor of a certain lock or stuff like that. It can be very flavorful, it can be annoying, so talk to your GM about it. Think of Ducky in NCIS if he has his moments of lecturing. The Nerd-Feats are Footprint Savant, Hallmarks, Identify Traps and Object Study. Thats 9 good feats all in all, the nerds included. No feat is really great in my eyes.

Spells
16 spells do follow, most are useable by many classes, but they truely shine when an Investigator is using them. I don't like 6 spells, Deciphering Eyes, both Instant Recollection (thats the job of the players or done by a hint, not a spell tax), Tunnel Vision is cornercase and Investigative Insight and Psychic Footprintare both are too much and can topple your mystery adventure. Instant Intuition has the 'hunch' mechanic in it again. The other 9 spells are all good, nothing great, nothing on the fence. But you'll get great variety out of those spells, they add flavor and can help specify your Investigator.

The Mystery
The Second Part, Running a Mystery Game, is great theory and should be read by every GM who plans on writing or preparing a mystery adventure.

Conclusion:
Ongoing Investigations gives you lots of stuff for your money, While there are elements I didn't like, mostly some of the spells, and there is the problem with the 'hunch'-mechanic in two feats and one spell, but this is to be expected with the pure volume this supplement contains. In general the material is very flavorful and very thought out, and I'm especially impressed with the good failsafes against abusing some of the powers. The supplements focuses on enhancing your role-playing experience, but doesn't overlook the roll-playing aspects of the game. If you are even remotely into the Investigator as a class, this is the supplement you'll want to have. All in all its 5 stars out of five, just barely not getting the elusive Crown reserved for my best of the best. Great job, Necromancers!

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Good ideas with flaws

3/5

This is a review for 'Bite Me! Skindancers', a supplement by Robert H. Hudson Jr. From Misfit Studios. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

'Skindancers' has about 16 pages with three full color pics (and a cover, OGL and so on). The featured race is for those who'd like to play lycanthrophes as PCs, but without breaking the gaming balance. If you are familiar with the Racial Points the ARG presents, Skindancer clocks in at 12 RP (dwarves and dhampirs are at 11 each for reference, aasimar at 15).

Since this is a supplement about a race, I expect racial traits, alternate racial traits, racial subtypes, favored class options and racial archtypes. Racial equipment, spells and feats are nice to have. In Skindancers, all of this is presented, and we also get two NPCs of CR 10 and CR 3. A big thumbs up for this! We also get a short history of the race, society, relations and so on.

I'll start my review with the not-perfect parts.
- I'm not a fan of the artwork, but that's always a matter of taste.
- The alternate racial traits are not a strong point of the supplement. While always in the theme of the race, we mostly get one skill bonus replaced by another. Its good if you are adapting your character for an urban or a wilderness campaign, but aside from Nature's Defender its also a bit uninspired. Nature's Defender, on the other hand, is bad since it adds to weapon damage against some evil creatures while it subtracts those against good ones of the same type, which is not my cup of tea, since its essentially a detect alignment while fighting (or additional bookkeeping by the DM, but a PC should be able to estimate the amount of damage he inflicts) and the drawback actually helps the PC since he may see that he did attack a potential ally.
. The racial subtypes refers to two traits that are not presented in the supplement, I did find neither manipulative nor socially adept. I don't know if they are in another supplement, if the name has changed or if they were cut, but that sort of thing shouldn't happen.
- The Skindancer Shaman, an oracle subtype, has an odd name since Shaman is now a class. But this is a minor concern of course. More problematic is the ability that gives the oracle +1 AC (+2 at 7th and +3 at 14th level) for a whole round once a day. Okay, its for all allies in 30 feet and you can change that into healing power, but the protection itself is way too weak and you are forced to take it as your 3rd level revelation. The Spiritual Warrior relevation on the other hand should be tied to the skindancer animal. Its hard to see why a gecko skindancer should get natural armor, strength and improved critical.
- In the magic item part, I don't like Amulet of Hidden Nature, since it just screws with bane, and ring of true form, for its generally a bit weak, but in an adventure centering around skindancers or lykanthropes it can easily spoil the fun.
- The spell Friendly Face is too good since it lasts for 1 hour/level and has no limit in how many people are affected. Cast this, walk through a town and you are everybodys darling.

I'm on the fence for these ones:
The Favored Class Options are a real mixed back. I like the Alchemist, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger and Ninja. I don't understand why Skindancer Fighters and Inquisitors should get a bonus to feints. I'd modify that Bards get a bonus on those themes that are affected by their racial themes instead of bluff and diplomacy, but those are minor points. A skindancer selects an animal out of the druid animal companion table, and I have major difficulties in seeing an elephant skindancer getting boni on escape artist (rogue) or an elk skindancer getting boni on grapple (monk). Its okay by the rules, I know, but the flavor of the class is not represented in this way. The oracle-ability is a bit strong in my opinion, and skindancers with mounts (like cavaliers) are generally difficult to picture for me in certain combinations. Anyone seeing an orc-elk skindancer riding his dire wolf? Additionally, the classes of the Advanced Class Guide are not presented, neither are any 3pp classes. Not a must have of course, but it would have been nice.

On to the good things:
- The unmodified race is good and interesting, as is its short history. The race is easily adaptable into any game world.
- I also like two of the racial archtypes, the Dark Hunter (Inquisitor) and the Community Infiltrator (rogue) are both interesting and fitting for the racial background. The rogue comes with hints toward rogue talents also.
- The feats are mostly nice, Aligned Claws, Beyond Reproach, Extra Skin, Twillight Hunter and Rapid Dancer are all useful, if nothing great. Scent of the Beast is nice and very fitting. Primeval Beast should be linked to specific animal types. The three Dark Dancer feats are all winners, but, since they are evil, only useable for enemies (or Way of the Wicked).
- Of the spells three are good and fitting, Friendly Face is covered above already.

And finally, the great ones:
- I like the Skindancer equipment. Bone Dust is good, but Mating Scent hits the nail on its head. Very good, including cost, weigth and Craft DC. Ring of the Wolf Pack is very nice and fits the theme.
- The rituals (I guess the Skinning couts as Ritual also?) are very flavorful and the heart of the whole class.
- The NPC examples are great, two pages long each, with 'During Combat' sections, backgrounds and everything else you are looking for.

Thoughts about improving the material:
The favored class options, the feat Primeval Beast and the Skindancer Shaman Archtype should be tied more to the animal the skindancer selects. At least I'd try to separate the carnivores from the herbivores. A few lines about familiar and animal companion interaction with the animal inside the skindancer would have been welcome, something like boni for wizard familiars if they are of the same type as the animal inside (or outside) the skindancer.

Conclusion:
Robert Hudson managed to build an interesting and playable lykanthropic race which is useful for PCs and, thanks to the various Dark Form feats, creepy NPCs. The short history of the race is interesting and easily adaptable into any game world. There are some flaws in the material, though, like the rather bland alternate racial traits or the errors in the racial subtypes. And sometimes there is no synergy or even contradiction between the animal inside (or around) the skindancer and his abilities, see my 'thoughts about improving the material' section. The NPCs that are included are winners.
My rating will be 3.5 stars for now, rounded down. If the problems are fixed this rating could change to as high as 5 stars though, since the core ideas of this supplement are very good.

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A tavern to remember

5/5

This is a review for 'Rock Bottom', a supplement by Rogue Genius Games subseries Christina Styles Presents. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Rock Bottom has 8 pages, one of them a map (and the usual stuff like a cover).

Rock Bottom is a tavern of the unusal kind, one mainly for beggars, not for thetypical kind of heroes, and it shows in the food and drinks, among other things. Its best introduced for a low level party I think, maybe for a party that starts real low, or for some heroes looking for rumors in the underbelly of a town. We get statblocks and short informations about the owner, his whole staff (one person), a typical patron and four untypical ones, some of them do come with adventure hooks.

I'll start my review with the not-perfect parts.
The description of the location is not as good as it could have been, since there are more informations about visible things in the background part than there are in the description, so the DM will have to adjust this. We also get a description for one of the two rooms only.
The four adventure seeds could be much better. The first of them is no seed at all, but should be added to the description of the owner instead. The third has nothing to do with the tavern at all, and, while evolving around a member of the staff of the tavern, players will have to build up a relationship with him earlier on to even connect him to Rock Bottom. The other two adventure seeds presented are nice, but nothing special and in the second the DM is left in the dark himself, which I gererally don't like that much..

On to the good things:
Rock Bottom is described with an eye for details, for we get a bit of history for the building and its owner, the patrons and so on. Its easy to envision the atmosphere here. Also there's some nice humor hidden in the pages, for example when the patrons are described as 'paying no attention to what they see or hear … or eat'. Which is way better for them, believe me.

And finally, the great ones:
The first great thing in my eyes is the menu: It's short and up to the point. with a nice description of what is hidden behind the names of the food and drink. While everything is very cheap here, I guess your party will think they've overpaid very soon.
The location is iconic as this 'tavern' is built between warehouses, if 'built' is the right word here. The map looks like a backyard by design. Lots of adventures start in a tavern, are going into one at some point, or both, but this one has a good chance to be remembered by your players – if not fondly. The author claims that the PCs will never come back to it, and you'll know why he is saying this, but I'd go the opposite road as a DM and occasionally let a clue ponit toward it. Doesn't every DM likes that look on the faces of his players as if they had eaten a lemon? Yes, Rock Bottom can do this to them.

Thoughts about improving the material:
While I like the short menu, I'd have added a tiny bit of the fantastic also, some Goblin Fungi with side effects or somesuch. Nothing big, but something that roots the tavern more firmly in a place that isn't everyday or generic. But this is nitpicking of course, as is my preferences of the old roof the tavern had instead of the new one.
Also a disease or two, like filth fever, would have been fun here, since the PCs will surely expect that to happen, and if players are counting on bad stuff I always feel oblieged to give them worse.

Conclusion:
Rock Bottom is a nice place to add to your campaign, and an iconic one that will stay in the minds of the players. The supplement is short, up to the point, and while it could have been fleshed out at some point or other, its a nice product resonably priced. I give it 4,5 out of 5 stars, rounded up to 5 stars since the few minor critics I have are easily adjusted.

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A good gaming novelty with some manageable problems

4/5

This is a review for 'Magical Diseases', a supplement by Rogue Genius Games for their Bullet Point subseries. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

Magical Diseases is 1 page long and offers 5 new plagues to make the life of your PCs more interesting.

I'll start my review with the not-perfect parts.
- Barrow Plague is something that can wipe out a whole region in a fantasy world without problems, and this is a bit too much for me. Sure, adventurers are getting toward the necessary magic to counter it quickly, but the poor villager has almost no chance. Save DC 21, 3 saves... they'll all die very soon. In addition, the injury-part is not described in detail. I assume when a victim of this plague dies and rises as undead he's able to transfer the plague while injuring the next victim, but I'm not sure. Also there won't be a former-villager zombie apokalypse, because the new undead have the victims HD-2. Again, I assume they stay dead with this, but I guess it is possible to change all HD 1 villagers into CR 1/3 skeletons, and those are big enough to enter the next village en masse if things get out of control. So there is a nice idea behind this plague, but use it wisely!
- Spellblaines could suck the game fun out of your spellcasters if things go bad. The DC of 16 is bad early on, and you can effectively take players out in low levels, since they won't be able to prepare or cast spells any more after a while. And its very easy to get this disease if you are using the optional arcane vector to distribute it. If your players are into this kind of damage though, the disease enhances roleplaying nicely, or you can give this disease to a spellcasting ally of the party, thus controlling what he can and can't do in support of the party. Again, roleplaying can be enhanced by 'fireball our enemies or they'll defeat us, but try not to infect them, for if they are spellcasters the disease is bound to get virulent...'
- Green Guts is very dangerous to the infected, and its also abuseable if the party discovers a method to use the green slime created for their own good. Also, the high save of 25 is bound to infect whole regions, and fast. while polluting the fields with slime for some longterm fun. Also you get transformed into a Gelationus Cube finally, which could make a raise dead or similar magic a bit problematic. The infection is transferred by unclear means, I guess you have to get in contact with the slime or the cube for it, but its not mentioned. That all said, it is a very iconic disease, but for the high level players. Make sure it doesn't spread outside the party.

On to the good things:
- Fury Fever is a nice one (seen through the masters eyes, of course), since you don't die of it, at least not directly. Since it attacks Con (and other things) its bound to lay the victims low sooner or later, and then they are helpless. Those affected by this disease don't attack others who are, but they will attack cured but unconscious people, and this could get out of hand if not supervised closely by the DM. That said, the plague is iconic and I will let it loose on my players and their environment of course. Roleplay-wise very few things beat a good group-fury of innocent people to keep your PCs occupied. Also, the incubation is so fast it really matters, possibly giving you a multi-staged combat in the same prepared battlefield when innocent bystanders get infected and involved.

And finally, the great ones:
- Ashenblood is very nice, since it lures the players to their doom willingly. Do as Endzeitgeist has suggested, send them someone with fire and then watch PC-powergaming enfold itself. There are also some nice ideas included how you can get someone infected with this hot beauty.

Thoughts about improving the material:
I like the concept of one page, one dollar for the bullet points, but some additional ideas and hooks about using the diseaese would have been icing on the cake. Some of the diseases scream 'adventure idea' loudly, but I'm sure there are many possibilities being overlooked on a casual or even a deep glance. Maybe next time a page for the ideas and another one for hooks? Double bullet time!

Conclusion:
The description of the diseases presented are short yet clear – so its meant to be, and thats a big thumbs up in my book. Endzeitgeist did mention missing cures for the diseases, but I guess the files have been updated since then, for they are inserted now.
The incubation times are all good and useable, from the very fast (mere minutes) to a few hours, only Barrow Disease has an incubation counted in days. Sometimes with diseases the PCs are long gone, the adventure is finished or whatever when the disease finally triggers, but thats rarely happening here, which I like.
All in all, if you keep an eyes on the dangers I talked about and the level of the party you are confronting with these diseases, they are very good and a new experience, something beyond monsters and traps. I give this supplement 4.5 stars, rounded down due to the dangers involved. With only one great score, one good and three on the fence I'd usually give a much lower rating, but I also want add that we need much more of these ideas for their novelty and gaming potential, and I think the problems are controllable by a careful DM.

Have fun!


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Aquatic menaces dialed up

4/5

This is a review for 'Mythic Monsters: Sea Monsters', a Bestiary by Legendary Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

When I look at a Bestiary I'm watching for something I can throw at my players without much preparation time and something that gets a reaction from my players that isn't a yawn, since I prefer them full of fear or full of wonder, and at the edge of their seats. This means I usually look at the special abilities first to get an idea what the monster is meant to do. Your view may vary.

'Mythic Monsters: Sea Monsters' has a short introduction of about 3 pages and about 19 pages, so you'll get about 22 pages of information with two nice full color pics (and a cover, table of contents and so on).

These monsters didn't strike a chord in me:
- Clockwork Leviathan is nicely written, but I don't like clockworks or technical things like ionic meltdown in my fantasy games. But if you like Iron Gods, you'll like the Leviathan;
- Incutilis are too destructive for their low CR (3/1). I'm always very sceptic when I see 'instant kill' in any description, and getting their victims helpless is easily done with their grapple-paralyse strategy;
- Great White Whale is a hello to Moby Dick and such has a place in this series, but is nothing special from its abilities and a bit overpowered in my eyes being 17/7. Poor Captain Ahab!

These monsters I partially like:
- the Kraken is too big for my taste, being 22/9, but if you are into high level gaming you'll like him very much. If you are not, his Sea of Blood ability can still be added to a kraken of lower power, its very iconic;
- Selkies are nothig special, though I like their Shake-Ability on another creature like a shark for instance, it doesn't fit very much on a Selkie in my eyes;

These monsters are good and I look forward using them:
- Bunyips get a roar that make them interesting;
- Devilfishes get closer to their name, from a menace for low-level PC and fisherman to a viable opponent for mid level;
- Dragon Turtle gets a new shell that screws with targeted range magic. I would have liked to see it screwing with light magic also, but its good as written;
- Draugr Crew is nice, a seaborn troop like those introduced in Reign of Winter. Players will love their Ship of the Damned ability – or not. The Draugr would be in the best cathegory if it weren't for firearms, which I generally don't like. But since Skull and Shackles has them, amp these monsters up if you like the concept of black powder in your campaign;
- Leshys are nice, they are a must-have if you got any Sargasso-Sea in your campaign. There are even infos here how to create your own Seaweed;
- Sea Serpents are nicely done, though not very special. Its a good emulation of old myths though, and thats what the series is about after all;

These monsters are so great they will immediatly get thrown at my unsuspecting victi... eh, players:
- The Sea Hag is a true water witch, and I like that Hags finally got a bit more 'witchy'. Get ready for a hexed harpoon and other nice things, players!
- The Jorganth, the new creature, is a full winner. It works with electricity, but I won't spoil more here.

Other notes:
The introduction has some nice feats but nothing special, though swim-by attack was a necessary addition after fly-by and ride-by already exist for so long.

Thoughts about improving the material:

Back in the days new monsters did sometimes come along with the appropriate Knowledge Checks and the informations gained for different levels of insight. I miss that and would have liked to see it in this Bestiary.

I also would like to see if there are some combos of the Abilities and spells or whatever, or even synergies with other CR-compatible monsters that would help me design encounters. For example, a new monster radiating heat damage would work nicely with an Iron Golem, helping him regenerate faster and shake of slow-effects

Last but not least I'd like to see a 'During Combat' part, which helps me with the tactics. It may even be divided into meet at range and close combat sections. The designer of the monster normally has something in mind how to use the beast, so why not give some hints about it?

Conclusion:
Two great monsters and six good ones make this Bestiary a very solid buy. If you are into technology from Firearms to Iron Gods, you may up the score by another half star. Skull and Shackles and Razor Coast will profit from this supplements, so if you are planning to master either and have not enough monsters yet, this is a good supplement for you.

Have fun!


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Creepy beasts ahead!

5/5

This is a review for 'Mythic Monsters: Worms', a Bestiary by Legendary Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

When I look at a Bestiary I'm watching for something I can throw at my players without much preparation time and something that gets a reaction from my players that isn't a yawn, since I prefer them full of fear or full of wonder, and at the edge of their seats. This means I usually look at the special abilities first to get an idea what the monster is meant to do. Your view may vary.

Mythic Monsters: Worms has a short and nice introduction about feats like wormriding, a Worm Domain and Worm Companions, 2 pages all together, and about 18 pages of monsters, so you'll get about 20 pages of information with two big full color pics (and a cover, table of contents and so on). Most Monsters are mythic versions of the originals found in the various Bestiaries. So they may sound familiar – which can be misleading now and then. PCs who let their guards down may be in for a surprise or two.

These monsters didn't strike a chord in me:
The rot grub swarm takes things a bit far for my taste, but thats of course my personal opinion.

These monsters I partially like:
I'm on the fence for the Neothelid, maybe he is useable as a weird NPC sage;
I like the Crawling Crush of the Purple Worm. He got some other feature that are okay, but nothing that captures my imagination.

These monsters are good and I look forward using them:
The Vermlek, a demon, is especially creepy for he can inhabit bodies;
the Frost Worm is nice and will especially anger your close combat characters;
the Grick got some fitting poison to work with;
the Worm that Walks and the Conquerer Worm all have Bossmonsters written over them, so I think a whole campaign can and should be written around them. If you like very big worms, those are your guys. I wonder what you'll get if you use them for fishing?

These monsters are so great they will immediatly get thrown at my unsuspecting victi... eh, players:
The Flail Snail and its new slime rune abilities can be very nice, in the right environment a snail really may star and its easily foreshadowable;
the Leech Swarm will show your players that they really should buy that Swarmbane Clasp Ultimate Equipment has introduced. Don't use these suckers when children are in the room!
Seugathi – crawling insanity. Yes please!
Giant Slug – take salt with you, lots of it. I like monsters with weaknesses the players actually can guess on;
Thoqqua- this one is very hot, and I mean this verbatim. Nasty, low CR, nice. Once you burn your PCs with them, be ready to fend of their tries to summon this mythic form with Summon Neutral Monsters though. They may insist!

Other notes:
The introduction with the feats like wormriding, the Worm Domain and Worm Companions is very good, I especially liked the creepy Worm Domain. The wormriding of course has Frank Herbert's signature written all over it, but Dune is an inspiring setting, so its good to have some rules to handle wormriding finally. With the companions a few lines about riding your frost worm companion and handling his cold aura while doing it would have been appreciated, but the PC will notice this particular drawback soon once certain body parts have been frozen. Having a Purple or Death Worm as a close friend will certainly help you with members of the opposite sex also – as long as those have the Worm Domain.

Thoughts about improving the material:
Back in the days new monsters did sometimes come along with the appropriate Knowledge Checks and the informations gained for different levels of insight. I miss that and would have liked to see it in this Bestiary.

I also would like to see if there are some combos of the abilities and spells or whatever, or even synergies with other CR-compatible monsters that would help me design encounters. For example, a new monster radiating heat damage would work nicely with an Iron Golem, helping him regenerate faster and shake of slow-effects.

Last but not least I'd like to see a 'During Combat' part, which helps me with the tactics. It may even be divided into meet at range and close combat sections. The designer of the monster normally has something in mind how to use the beast, so why not give some hints about it?

Conclusion:
Its a very good book, five monsters in the best cathegory of mine, only one I didn't like. This bestiary is a winner for any creepy realm your PCs are going to visit, and they won't easily forget what they'll meet there!

Have fun!