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RPG Superstar 6 Season Dedicated Voter. FullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 10,118 posts (13,016 including aliases). 12 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 2 Organized Play characters. 19 aliases.



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Not Your Everyday Space Opera RPG

****( )

It takes something special to make me want to convert a character across genres. As in take my all-time favorite converted-up-the-chain and played in Pathfinder since release character and convert said character into the Starfinder rules whole-hog conversion. To never look back, happily bidding a fond adieu to the Pathfinder rules. This hasn't been a serious consideration for me since the 1e AD&D days of Gamma World, Boot Hill and Top Secret.

Of course what would also be a LOT of fun is to use Starfinder's beautiful space opera weaponry against a great wyrm dragon, battling for one's sanity against tentacled eldritch horrors in the Dreamlands or taking down some snooty Runelord with a plasma cannon to the face!

Unlike previous iterations of the hit point/stamina point mechanics, Starfinder's is the best use I've seen of it yet. So long as the characters' stamina holds up, they're good to keep on adventuring for a while longer. When things get serious is when damage starts gnawing on your hit points. Then you need to worry about holing up.

Critical hits don't directly whack your hit points, they still have to chew through your stamina. So long as this mechanic is held sacrosanct we have a winner. Critical hits also aren't a combination of frequency-of-occurrence and damage multiplier. Instead critical hits deal double damage and, depending on the specifics, carry an additional effect that the target can attempt a saving throw to stop - and desired when at high-level play the victim is facing a critical hit that wants to add a 6d6 hp bleed to their woes!

Customization of gear is baked into the system. You have a maximum limit so as to thwart power creep. Other than that, the limit is on what the characters are capable of making via their skills. Not only is your gear easy enough to make to desired standards, but making your gear yourself/as a team is inherently tougher and much easier to repair if/when it is damaged.

Speaking of skills, there are fewer skills and no one is stuck with a base of 2 skill ranks per level. Everyone gets at least 4, which is a Good Thing. This eliminates the necessity for the various solutions to the quantity of skills in 3e and Pathfinder. This is a Very Good Thing.

Feats in general have been vastly overhauled and made more worthwhile. Personal opinion a few of these are unnecessary, but only time will tell if my intuition is correct or not.

My hope is that Starfinder doesn't fall into the Bottomless Pits of Hell that Pathfinder has regarding feats with somewhere north of 1,500 published feats (not counting 3rd-party published feats). Instead, I hope that new feats are rare, worthy of inclusion and held to consistent standards with those established by the SfCRB.

TL;DR: I eagerly await Pathfinder 2.0 using what we've seen here in Starfinder as its chassis. It's time to unleash the void-rifles of war!


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Reap what you have sown indeed

*****

The end-game where we're used to the good guys catching up to the bad guys and stomping a mud-hole in 'em. Only now you're the bad guys. Will you indulge in the rewards so long denied you?

Personally, I recommend thoroughly abusing your power over the island. Crush the inevitable rebel scum and try to anticipate the sudden yet inevitable betrayals by (almost) all of your mini-onions.

I strongly recommend the GM exercise the "second option" to conclude the campaign. In other words, give the villains a properly sound thrashing by the Good Guys.

Kill them, kill them all, permanently.


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Carpe Diem, Dark Lords!

*****

Seize destiny with both hands and throttle it for what is rightfully yours!

At least you overthrow both the Infernal Pact you signed in Chapter 1 and the mewling sun-worshiping peons of Talingarde. A vast island awaits the tread of your hobnailed boots. Give them nothing, take from them everything.

The material about lichdom and vampirism in Pathfinder - and ways to "pay" for both without throwing things completely out of kilter are well done herein. With retraining rules from Ultimate Campaign your fiends can pay the price and even improve upon them at the cost of precious general feats. I recommend using them to base how one addresses such concerns in other sandbox campaigns. I wish I'd had this information when running my CoT/KM mash-up campaign. Well done!


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Holy Guacamole

*****

You're only half-way through and your group of terrors are already 13th level? Oh myyyy.

This chapter fully expects your villains to use the mighty magics and killing power at their disposal. Lacking access to 6th and 7th level cleric/wizard spells could severely hurt your ability to wreak havoc and unleash further mayhem.

One of the pleasant surprises during the later chapters of the Way of the Wicked is how long circle of death and similar spells remain viable offensive spells, which is a first in my experience with published 3e/3.5/Pathfinder campaigns.


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Clerics, Angels and Phoenix, oh my

*****

Your horrid villains are tasked with sacking a wintered-in valley of nauseatingly Lawful Good types. Recruit foot soldiers, bust the gate open and sack the place!

This chapter continues to demonstrate the villainous virtues of infiltration, sabotage, skulduggery and raw Evil firepower. The big nasties are all challenging icons of Things that are Good. Some groups will mop the floor with their foes, others will have a more difficult time.

As is the established pattern in earlier chapters, the villains can nova some encounters while carefully husbanding resources in other parts.

Plan carefully Ladies and Lords for failure to pay attention may send your damned souls to Hell far earlier than you wish...


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I loved it - others may not

*****

Taking over and then defending your own multi-level Dungeon of Doom? Heck yeah!

As with the entire Way of the Wicked campaign there are significant sandbox elements, so long as the players are willing to take the risks if they gallivant about overlong.

I would rate this at 9/10 for the minion subsystem. It wasn't my cup of tea. Others may get a great deal more gratification from it than I did. Since fractional ratings on the 1-5 scale are not possible, I round up to 5/5 since this remains an excellent defend-your-sandbox plus extra.

The upside is that the campaign encourages taking Vile Leadership. You'll likely need the fireball fodder ...


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It has begun

*****

Despite the relative age of the Way of the Wicked it holds up very well.

Provided the players understand and buy into this campaign's concept they will have a Hell of a good time.

This chapter packs a lot of material from start to end. You get a lot of adventure for your money and the maps are well done. There are a lot of player handouts that you may want to review and re-do for the vision-impaired players (or yourself!).

Especially for the price point the campaign is worth every penny so long as everyone buys in for the long haul.


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Two Words: MUST. HAVE.

*****

This is hands down the single best Pathfinder RPG Adventure Path chapter published to date (as of the time of this post).

Without spoiling anything, if you think you know what is coming ... you don't. The oracle mystery is rock solid. The support articles are delicious, scrumptious icing on the cake.

Most importantly, the adventure will make players cry for their parental units.

Get this and brutalize your players' characters in ways they have never seen before.


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Kill Zem, Kill Zem All

*****

Gentlecritters,

Unlike the FAR better known Endzeitgeist who primarly reviews 3pp stuff, my collection centers more on what wierdness catches my interests.

As such Reign of Winter's first chapter latched on like a bloodthirsty paragon weasel on a one-critter blood drive. Guess what, my DMPC is the targeted critter and oh boy is his sorry rear end in for a WORLD of pain.

The usual blatherings about page counts, talking about the fiction stuff, blah de blah de blah ... meh, who cares.

What I really care about is two-fold

  • does the Chapter's adventure have the potential to make an itenerant old coot care about saving the sorry NPCs from horrible fates that he is possibly able to thwart - aka "can a long term player of the game since 1982 get hooked" on the adventure/module in question; and
  • (b) is there some really cool 'mess my old coot up' stuff in the adventure/module?

The answer is a resounding YES. When I'm seriously considering an AP or module to run as a GM I do a "dry run" with a fairly tough gestalt solo character to get a feel for how the AP will run. Over time this gestalt DMPC (such as it is) is refined based on (a) what is thematically appropriate to the AP based on the players' guide; and (b) what doesn't bork over the gestalt. Short version, I used a 13/13/15/16/13/13 human gestalt Fighter (viking)/Alchemist (crypt breaker grenadier) to "solo test" the first chapter of Reign of Winter.

This has been, in one form or another, an ongoing process for most of the AP Chapters since Rise of the Runelords more than 10 years ago (excepting Skull-n-Shackles). This is the FIRST EVER CHAPTER where the test guy was almost killed in the first part of the first chapter. AWESOME!!

This Chapter will test your characters' mettle right out of the gate. To quote/paraphrase HackMaster: "This adventure is not for the wuss of heart." The artwork fits the AP oh so sweet, the baddies are viciously nasty and there's plenty of wiggle room for the over-head-count GMs to toss in a plethora of level-appropriate baddies without skipping a beat.

Neil Spicer delivers an absolutely OUTSTANDING first chapter, one that doesn't involve the cliches of so many previous AP first chapters. If you as a player examine the previous AP first chapters to garner a clue as to what to expect in this chapter ... your character will probably die, horribly, crying for his mommy. And then you can try again with a better PC for this campaign. >:)

There is a lot of basis to ad-lib roleplaying expansions in the base writing without giving away anything of the metaplot. And when things get nasty, they don't play around. Fitting for a "winter" themed campaign.

If the rest of Reign of Winter sticks to the pacing I picked up from the "vibe" of this the first chapter of Reign of Winter, expect a roller coaster ride with barely enough time to gather your breath and pick up 'off the shelf' stuff for those players obsessed with custom items before you go up the next hill and down the next slope into a brutal blizzard of carnage, foolishness, mayhem and violence!

If you are a GM looking for a low level AP chapter to thoroughly challenge your players - in combination with the free PLAYER'S GUIDE - or you're a player that believes that you're all that, a bag of chips and a "dice lord" to boot, this first chapter of an AP will 'bring it'.

The Snows of Summer gets three - yes, THREE - knives up. All clean, gleaming and glistening with oil of magic evisceration. Enjoy!


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YMMV

***( )( )

The book starts from the basic exploration, kingdom/city building and mass combat rules as presented in the Kingmaker AP Chapters 1, 2 and 5.

As written it's quite useable and has a few interesting changes as noted in previous reviews, such as the change in the square miles of the area a hex encompasses. Trivial point: the area of Washington D.C. is a bit under 70 square miles, so you can fit more than 5 of them in a single hex.

The kingdom building chapter adds in a substantial expansion on "farmlands" from the original rules, changing this to "open spaces development". This is the best part of the entire book, one I am adding in toto for my own campaign. This gives a reason to remember where your various landmarks are at on your kingdom map, as you can do something with most of them.

The revisions in this book for building cities and the changes in the actions by size of kingdom in my opinion are unnecessary.

There are a few new buildings, some of which are "odd". The majority of the new buildings are underpriced variants of the tradesman building in the regular rules that don't require houses be adjacent. The Keep is a variant of the Barracks that costs too much. The additions to Castles are nice, although the moat is badly explained and the 'wards' one is either overkill or far too easily bypassed by other means. Best to remove it from availability.

Mills are incorrectly assumed to only be used as a lumber mill and require substantial water access. More mills are likely built and used to grind grain than mill lumber and can be build on a much smaller river or stream than can a pier. As these rules stand, you have to have a carpenter for quite a few important items - which means in order to build various stuffs you will want every city built on a water border to build the mill that the carpenter requires. This doesn't really work well... Some of these discrepencies derive from the original material.

The militarily-required buildings are generally unecessary as well, although they are tied into the mass combat section of this book.

The mass combat system is a nice attempt at changing the admittedly basic one presented in Chapter 5 of the Kingmaker AP. The consumption costs are generally far too high, especially on a weekly basis. The training system works well enough, although using it as-is might not be so satisfactory for some.

There is a new tactic for victorious armies to learn and 4 new resources to upgrade armies with. These are also good additions and ones I plan to integrate in toto. I suggest that the poison resource inflict damage to the army using it as well unless that army is comprised of creatures with the poison use class feature or that are immune to poison.

There are several special abilities added - only Mercenaries is worthwhile. 'Bleed' is best left as originally presented in Kingmaker as part of the 'poison' special ability, while 'Crusader' is too subjective. Everyone will argue that all of their armies are crusaders to shave those consumption costs down.

Vassal armies I think are a good concept that in the book that is not well executed.

The army construction rules present an interesting concept: limiting maximum army size by 'method of conscription' - based on whether the army in question is conventionally recruited and trained (marshal), divinely acquired (planar allies?) or 'arcane' (which covers all the rest of them).

There are several new feats presented, most pertaining to govorning your kingdom or leading your armies. They are good enough to use, although Sickening Strike I would remove. Dirty Trick is already able to do this and doesn't quite require the "feat taxes" to acquire the feat. The rest of them seem fine, although Mountain Strike I would caution against unless you are willing to have some of your bad guys get it too.

The mass combat spell section has some problems as well. I cannot recommend integrating it as-is. The summon army spells are - while written for entire armies of wizards/sorcerers/clerics/druids - an especially bad idea. The effects of summoned monsters on this scale are sufficiently covered by that army's "spellcasting" special ability.

The only two non-army spells of note (besides the two that deal with scent) are (a) magic wall - which omits the very important detail of how much it costs and what the minimum caster level should be to make it permanent; and (b) wall of tentacles.

My beef with this supplement's army building rules are identical to the original ones - purely RAW they are way too easy to abuse. Armies of hound archons are the same cost as an army of 5th level fighters - both are a base CR of 4 as a Medium army in this example.

The same complaint goes for armies of golems, pixies, rust monsters, great wyrm dragons ridden by 20th level wizards and so on. There should (in most campaigns) be a hard cap on what one can recruit and train in such numbers.

This supplement attempts to reign that in by the consumption cost / week of resources = same as the cost to purchase. This really doesn't work well, as it makes armies too expensive without addressing the core problems.

The magic items are largely fine - but I caution against the trio of statues. As they're written, a group could plant one of each in each city for pretty cheap and rachet the kingdom's bonuses up even further. In a nutshell, one park per city(6 BP, most often either 3 or 1 BP) 'unlocks' access to these statues. Presumably the PCs are able to craft them, so they cost half. The +1 statues are a bargain at 2.5 BP each - the reason? Each *city* can have one of each statue in their park. I recommend house-ruling the highest such bonus provided by these statues be applied to the entire kingdom as an enhancement bonus. Otherwise, one set of +3 statues - at a 'retail' cost of 135 BP - provides the same benefit as placing a set of +1 statues in each of 3 different cities at a 'retail' cost of 22.5 BP. For the same price as one set of +3 statues, you can acquire a +18 to Economy, Loyalty and Stability for the entire kingdom, provided you have 18 cities, which is not hard to do.


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Diamond Still in the Rough

**( )( )( )

Promising a Pathfinder-compatible campaign setting, Dredan posits an epic struggle between Good (Positive Energy) and Bad (Negative Energy) on at least a Galactic scale, complete with starships and planet-hopping galore. The VOID are the bad guys, undead infused with an entropic agenda that the positive-energy-infused good guys are equally bent on stomping out.

However, what would have had me scrambling back for a refund is the undeclared requirement that you have to also have something called "T20". I can only presume that this refers to a d20-compatible edition of Traveller.

The Dreden-specific races include androids (BLUs - Basic Life Units) that are able to load up on cybernetics swag, shapeshifting positive energy critters, a variant human race that is not a real improvement over the Core Rules human and the BBEG race (VOID).

The races are not PFPRG-compatible in execution, with restricted favored class selections - a Beta holdover perhaps? - and level adjustments. I give Dredan a "good thing" nod in attempting to make the VOID race playable. The flavor text accompanying them is fairly good - and makes it clear that they are an unpleasant prospect to actually play at the table.

Without the heavy use of magic or XPH psionics, the VOID are doomed to being overt bad guys. And in order to become one, the required prestige class hamstrings the casting level - and, by extension manifesting level although this is not explicitly addressed despite Dredan's premise of parity between magical, psionic and technological as a 'Rule of Three'. At 11th level (at best), a VOID PC has a caster level of 6th. I am unsure if this is intentional or not.

The Dredan-specific items section more often than not seems out of balance on produced magic item costs vs. cost-to-manufacture. Holy Water made 'at cost' by the Good Guys is one thing - but a near-artifact-priced item is hard to accept "at cost".

The 'mana engine' vehicular power plants are not clear in the benefit provided besides the energy that the regular reactor would produce. For an addition to Traveller, these things had best be staggeringly impressive - and did not deliver. These power plants should have been able to power everything the normal reactor does plus the jump drive since normal Traveller starships consume substantial quantities of liquid hydrogen to power interstellar travel plus a meson cannon strapped to the roof for the volume and cost multipliers involved.

The artwork within the book is of mixed quality, some showing much greater proficiency and skill than others. The layout / placement of the artwork is well done, clearly denoting or accompanying a relevant section of the text.

Mechanically the single biggest quibble is with the "drain rate" of temporary hit points gained from positive energy. Consistently referenced as "temporary hit points drain from a living creature of 1d20 minutes" is ... confusing. How many temporary hit points drain how fast? Do they all go away in 20 minutes or less? Why does the setting have such randomness associated with positive energy as compared to the rules for this in existing 3.5 Open Licensed material?

The walkers are strange, depicted as what I can only call the inbred love child of an AT-ST, a Destroid or Mecha and the Mechanoids. Combined with the (realistic) expense and that it requires a prestige class to use the things keeps them planted firmly on that strange spot.

The depicted fighter craft bears a suspicious resemblance to the Gallente Shuttle from EVE Online.

There are some written IP references (beholders are the first I saw, in the descriptive text of a staff) as well that are begging for some trouble from the legal eagles.

The "world setting" section is not bad, comprising an area of detail that, in Traveller, would be represented by a single sector. Not a bad starting point for a new campaign involving substantial space travel.

This really needed more polish to make it mechanically compatable with PFRPG.


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Excellent atmosphere, tough challenges!

*****

My home group enjoyed the atmosphere and flavor text, with several commenting "this would make an excellent set up for a movie!" We spent some time elaborating on the back story descriptions given. It really creeped out the players with the lunatic at the beginning somehow manipulating the spirits of the fallen bound to this accursed place before getting eaten alive by a trio of baddies as the party effectively dangled him out ahead like a tethered goat in a Tyrannosaur pen.

At tier 1-2 it proved to be a bit rough for 2 3rd and 2 1st level characters - one permanent death (1st level 1 XP shy of 2nd level) and one temporary death (3rd level 1 XP shy of 4th) salvaged only due to the surviving characters chipping in cash and throwing a caster level check. The final baddy was a rude surprise for the party...

Awesome! ^_^


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Darn Near A Must-Use

****( )

Once I experimented with this software a bit, I found this about as easy to use and flexible as the GURPS Character Assistant software - no mean feat in its own right.

Once they get the 1.9 patch linky to work, I'll be a happy man. :)

Naturally, I would want the chaps who worked this puppy up - if possible - to factor in the material in the Unearthed Arcana as selectable options (including, as an example, Gestalt Characters with up to five core class selections) as well as the ability to use the software - or even as an add-on pack - "GM" tools.

So far, I like what it can do already. KUTGW!

EDIT: And of course, if it would be possible to acquire Pathfinder RPG rules datasets - say, at release next August - for this software it would be particularly useful too.


High Promise, Low Fulfillment

**( )( )( )

Pros: Quickstart rules booklet, pre-generated characters include level-up information detailed out, XP awards et al are layed out for the DM. The included maps are very detailed and give an excellent sense that may not be well conveyed by flavor text. The folder pockets are a nice idea but should have been bottom-and-side sealed, open on the top. Otherwise the pockets are an improvement.

Cons: Wants to be Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde - only, it is not.

The folder's construction is considerably flimsier than Slaughtergarde's.

The included maps are (a) not 'poster sized' in any normal perspective of how big a poster is to a non-gamer; and (b)2 of the 3 are recycled. The big problem I've had with these poster-maps all along is that they are not particularly durable on thier own. You pretty much have to acquire a sheet of transparent material to lay atop them to endure table use.

They retain the use of the Delve format, and I would presume based on the stack of materials showing in the pre-order catalog that they intend to retain this page-eating format. Understandable, but unnecessarily page-count inflating.

The overall feel I got from perusing the text was ... not much. A generic starter module, sufficient to the task.


Fine Promise for Things to Come

*****

An excellent preliminary revision of the 3.5 rules set, with the 'big 4' core classes done up in excellent fashion. For an 'alpha' this holds to production-grade standards.

With this as the teaser, the rest of the 'Alpha' materials should be equally drool-worthy.


Waste of Paper

*( )( )( )( )

Miffed that I chomped the bait and found myself with a glorified catalog that cannot be ordered from, I have yet to determine what to do with this thing.

The only value for this would be to swat bugs - thus the one star.