Apr 282017
 

The Long Night of Winter – Winter’s Teeth

The series “The Long Night of Winter” was conceived as supplemental material/optional tie-ins for the massive Northlands Saga, but each of the modules can be run as a stand-alone module as well. I backed the kickstarter for Northlands Saga back in the day, but otherwise was not involved in this project.

 

This module is intended for levels 6- 8 and is set in the eponymous Northlands of Frog God Games’ Lost Lands campaign setting. It does translate well to other fantasy campaign settings, though. Minus editorial etc., we are left with 13 pages here, just fyi.

 

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

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All right, still here? Great! So, the PCs, on an epic binge, have inadvertently accepted the hospitality of Jarl Anbjorn Olefson, who has invited them to stay a couple of nights – thus the PCs have sailed towards the isolated homestead of the jarl into the bay that holds his meager holdings. It should be noted that the read-aloud text provided in this module manages to perfectly encapsulate the atmosphere of the North – as does the text. It’s small things, really, but an easily decipherable kenning here and there really helps drive home the flavor.

 

Now, if you expected an intrigue/standard module, then you’d be wrong – in fact, this module would perfectly work in our very own world when used e.g. with LotFP or similar old-school rules. Why? Because, in a nut-shell, this module is viking survival horror.

 

…see, if I had read that in a review, I would have clicked “buy” so fast, my keyboard would be smoldering. Want to know more? All right, all right…So, remember in my review of the Player’s Guide, where I commented on the fact that the guide explained the realities of life pretty well? The settlement of the jarl once exemplified this reality – very rural, secluded, with a couple of farms…and now all is ruins. Trails of gruesome carnage can be found as the PCs investigate the jarl’s holdings and surrounding area: Signs of cowardice can be unearthed and the gruesome massacre and hints about the nature of the doom that befell his lands are slowly, but surely unearthed as the PCs gather the survivors, all of which come with detailed information and background regarding the attacks.

 

You see, the jarl’s bearsarker has succumbed to the dread curse of the slåtten, consumed by the power that granted him his strength – now, an inhuman monstrosity bent on total destruction of the survivors, only a precious few have managed to survive – but e.g. a small girl may once, so wyrd wills it, become a fearsome champion…provided the PCs can defeat the monstrosity. In order to do so, they’ll be hard-pressed: Even an optimized group will, provided the 15-pt-buy suggestion of northlands is heeded, will need the added strength and help the NPC-survivors can provide. Furthermore, careful observation may clue the PCs in on crucial weaknesses of the monster they can exploit to even the playing field – from a specific moss to a certain…respect towards specific beings, these angles can provided the crucial help they’ll need…for the monster clocks in at a mighty CR 12! (And yes, this may well entail making friends with yetis that have suffered at teh hands of the monster!)

 

(And no, I am not spoiling what those are – suffice to say, this module runs pretty much like how I tend to write such scenarios – it rewards brains over brawns and is lethal.)

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the softcover I have has the glossy cover and high production values I expect from Frog God Games. The interior b/w-artwork is phenomenal, original and deserves the highest praise. Really cool: We not only get b/w-maps, we actually also get player-friendly versions!! Big plus there!

 

I know, I know. I tend to gravitate towards complex modules with a lot of plots, stuff to do, detail, etc. I tend to like material that is on the high-complexity side of things. Kenneth Spencer’s “Winter’s Teeth” is pretty much the opposite – it is really, really simple. And it is GORGEOUS. The atmosphere the prose evokes is incredible; the execution of the per se simple plot is precise, to the point and amazing. Heck, you could run this in LotFP, dark ages CoC or similar environments and it’d still work. This is very much an “atomic” scenario in that it highlights that you don’t need something structurally fancy all the time – all you need is a sharp pen, a gift for story-telling and there you go. In spite of my own preferences, I found myself completely engrossed in this module; in spite of it mirroring pretty much my own adventure-crafting style on a base level, I found myself incapable of putting it away. Its writing is simply that good.

 

Oh, and it plays better than it reads, at least if your PCs are smart. If not…well, then start prepping those obituaries… In short: Winter’s Teeth is a superb example of what you can do with a small module. It is inspired, evocative and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this amazing module here on OBS!

 

Prefer old-school? The OSR (S&W) version can be found here!
Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 282017
 

Mini-Dungeon: The Siren’s Lament

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.

 

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

 

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

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Still here?

All right!

Sirens rarely find true love and when they do, it rarely ends well; such was the case here. The lover of the siren was a wealthy captain, drowned by the wrath of the Sea King, the siren’s father…which broke the siren’s heart and drove her to suicide – this complex with its winding passages would be his monument to his rage and remorse. Within this complex remain the remnants of the once proud ship of the captain, guarded by haunts, animated galleon figures. From ghostly tunes to the storms unleashed and a memory child, the PCs can actually find out about this tragedy in both direct and indirect storytelling…but upon witnessing the finale, the complex will flood…with a great white shark…so good luck to the players.

 

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. This time around, we get not jpgs or player-friendly versions, which is a down-side.

 

Colin Stricklin delivers big time in this amazing mini-dungeon; the checks make sense, the story is surprisingly strong. The flavor of this dungeon is fantastic and somber, true fantasy and resonates with strong leitmotifs. In short: An amazing mini-dungeon well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this amazing, flavorful mini-dungeon here on OBS!

 

While my review is based on the PFRPG-version, you can find this for 5e as well – here’s the link!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Apr 282017
 

Deadly Gardens: Hungry Pit

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As always, we begin with two new magic items, the first would be the garland of sweet scents decreases nauseated as a condition to sickened by virtue of sweet bulbs erupting, taking the brunt of the smell/effect. As a move action, the garland’s user can cause all bulbs to bloom, which ends the usual protection, but for 1 minute negates sickened and nauseated penalties of the wearer and all creatures within 10 ft. Cool! Pungent Onions are sickening and smelly – when consumed, the user emits an even worse, horrid smell for some time. Nice!

 

The pdf also contains also 7 new natural items: Adherer tendrils can make the manufacture of sovereign glue easier. The great cyclops eye can increase the CL, act as a focus or as a means to lower the cost of making a crystal ball. (It also has a cosmetic typo: “a lso”) Giant slug tongue can make a more nasty masterwork longspear with a crit-range of 19-20/x3. Hieracosphinx dewclaws can be used as variant daggers and hippogriff feathers can be fashioned into a talisman that enhances Fly. Hungry pit nectar doubles as a sticky acid and the stats for the hungry pit’s toxin are also provided – it renders unconscious, btw.

 

Speaking of which – what exactly does the creature do? At CR 6, the hungry pit does not move- it is an ambush predator that looks like a plant with leafy fronds that is well-camouflaged. It uses feeder tentacles to grab those nearby and draw them into its insides. It also has a nasty stinger that can render those hit unconscious…oh, and inside it has acid. OUCH. Cool ambush-predator, illustrated rather well by Jeremy Corff.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard and is still rather printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity. The b/w-artwork of the creature is pretty cool as well.

 

Russ Brown, Kim Frandsen and Joe Kondrak provide one of the better installments of the series. Granted, the ambush predator angle is not necessarily new, but the execution here is pretty cool and well done. Oh, and the pdf is more than inexpensive – less than a buck is truly fair. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – well worth getting!

 

You can get this inexpensive critter here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Apr 282017
 

Mini-Dungeon: Chrome Devils of the Swamp

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.

 

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

 

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

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Still here?

All right!

A fiery comet has fallen into the nearby swamp and rumors abound regarding the strange devils that have ventured forth from its insides. Indeed, within the swamp, the dungeon is composed of a strange alloy, sports an eerie glow…yep, this very much would be a crashed space-ship, with several kind of robots serving as the opposition to be faced by the PCs. Here is something cool: Doors improperly forced open, droids destroyed – all matter, for the analyst AI that is the BB”E”G can result in enemies coming close. The set-up is amazing, though the “Alert check” that the pdf mentions looks like something is missing there…DCs? At least the AIs I know of don’t have that feature/as part of rules-language. Similarly, I’m not sure why a grid of potentially deadly light is based on Dex-checks, instead of Ref-saves…worse, one deals plasma damage (which is nonstandard – usually, that means half fire/electricity, but that should be specified in the pdf)…and it’s a Fort-save to halve, which makes no sense to me, but all right.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and solid, but not up to the best in the series. This time around, we get not jpgs or player-friendly versions, which is a down-side.

 

Stefanos “The Netlich” Patelis’s science-fantasy crawl has all the makings of 5 star + seal of approval: A great backdrop, a cool, consistent leitmotif, some evocative terrain features, etc. – at the same time, a couple of choices are weird – when something should obviously feature a tech-use, UMD or Escape Artist, when saves feel strange…then we unfortunately have a mini-dungeon that is a mixed bag from a reviewer’s perspective. Don’t get me wrong – a moderately experienced GM can run this as something truly amazing, but I can’t rate that. As written, I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars for this one, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this science-fantasy mini-dungeon here on OBS!

 

While my review is based on the PFRPG-version, the 5e-version can be found here!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

 

Apr 272017
 

Dear readers,

 

please indulge me for a second: A book I wrote a metric ton of material for, the Underworld Races and Classes Compendium for PFRPG and D&D 5e, is within its final hours as per the writing of this post!

The book will also be a limited print run like the by now OOP and sought-after hardcover of the Rise of the Drow-saga – the KS will literally be the only way to get the absolutely gorgeous hardcover, unless you’re lucky and find a copy in a gaming store in the Seattle area! We have unlocked a metric ton of absolutely phenomenal artwork by Mates Laurentiu and are crushing stretch-goals left and right, so if you want in on the action, it’s now or never!

 

Here is the link!

 

Thank you and all the best,
Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 272017
 

Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte Adventure Book

This massive first installment of the ambitious Dark Obelisk AP clocks in at a thoroughly impressive 497 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 5 pages of ToC, 4 pages blank, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 483 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This was move up in my review-queue as a prioritized review and I received a print copy, further moving this up in my review queue.

 

Now, at this point, I have already talked about several of the unique properties of this AP – reward stars, quadded statblocks and attitude trackers. I explained those in the reviews of the books where they are most relevant. As a brief refresher regarding the helpful layout:

 

The book explains its unique presentation: Taking a cue from AAW Games’ playbook and similarly well-presented adventures, we get handy, color-coded boxes: Obstacles are e.g. in an orange/yellowish box; loot can be found in blue boxes and icons clearly denote the respective components for what they are. When a random roll is required from the GM, a handy dice-symbol denotes the action as such.

 

As you can glean from my review of the Dramatis Personae and Bestiary book, the quadded statblocks are not in the adventure book, nor are the highly detailed fluff notes for the vast amount of NPCs in this book. These can be found in the Dramatis Personae-book. That being said, this adventure does contain statblocks – though they a) are rudimentary and b) violate PFRPG-formatting conventions left and right. Honestly, that’s one of the most serious complaints I have regarding this mega-adventure/first part of the Dark Obelisk AP. I cringe whenever I see one of these nonstandard statblocks. And yes, alas, these have hiccups, so no change from the crunchier books for Dark Obelisk.

 

It should also be noted that the superbly-written prose for the NPCs and complex attitude-tracker-system from the Dramatis Personae-book SIGNIFICANTLY enhances the experience of running this book. I strongly urge any GM waning to run this to use them in conjunction with one another.

 

However, there is another innovation in this book, an interesting peculiarity I have not yet discussed in the other Dark Obelisk reviews, mainly because it did not come up: The concept of attitude trackers, which I explained in the Dramatis Personae book, is applied globally in a unique twist on the sandbox trope. You see, a lavishly-detailed sandbox like this all too often gets bogged down in the details – something particularly likely to happen in a book that has the lofty ambitions of this tome, namely to create a wholly immersive and dynamic environment. Hence, the module introduces a so-called catalyst tracker. The first thing a GM should do, hence, is to decide what the catalyst for Act 2 would be – 4 sample ideas are given, but any halfway decent GM can generate variants thereof.

 

Once that primary catalyst is determined, we have three values we can potentially track; Law and Chaos (mirroring the theme of the religious conflict between the lawful church of Zugul mainly worshiped by the upper class and the fatalistic, more chaotic church of Sheergath worshiped by the less fortunate majority) and Love – the latter determining more the heartbreak and sheer emotional charge, positive or negative, generated by the acts of the adventurers. Starting values are included, but there are definitely enough catalyst impacts in the literally hundreds of quests herein to start them off with 0, if you prefer slower-paced games. Once the catalyst has met the respective value, sh** gets real. This, in conjunction with the various FlexTables for random encounters, lavish detail for NPCs (when used in conjunction with the Dramatis Personae book) and sheer amount of detail for every single locale mean that no two experiences of this adventure will be alike. Additionally, some quests are particularly suited to act as a story-trigger, as yet another alternative. Oh, and the module does come with railroady tracks, if such a wide-open sandbox seems to daunting for you.

 

If the sheer amount of NPCs and locales and quests seem daunting to track, note that codes (like BC-1) for places and sub-locations make finding the proper places easy. Quests denote the exact page in the case they require information found elsewhere.

 

But to go into the details of how the adventure plays out, I need to go into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around here? Great! So, I could sum up the plot of this module in one sentence. No, I am not kidding you. If I did that, though, I’d be doing this module a disservice.

 

You see, the first Act of this massive adventure would consist of the PCs familiarizing themselves with the town of Berinncorte. This is a massive sandbox, where the PCs can meet the tough Lady that acts as a major and may be a bit overzealous regarding law; they can butt heads (and blades, if they choose to) with a local tough guy; they can get to know the local churches and their doctrines. They can find mundane books in the library, which actually enhance skills. They can investigate missing folks and just generally have a nice time. The whole of act one, in short, consists of small, personal quests, local color and tiny favors. These quests are not necessarily world-shattering; they are almost painfully mundane and idyllic. This is done intentionally. You see, for one, as mentioned before, these all represent ways to increase the catalyst tracker. Even if your players don’t know it yet, even via these mundane quests, they’re advancing the plot. The quests also generate a sense of the mundane, the almost-realistic, basically the fantasy equivalent of a small town-villanelle.

 

That being said, there are aspects of the fantastic to be found here, even within this relative calm that precedes the storm that inexorably will tear at the town: Go down the right cellar for a less than legit meeting and you may find yourself looking at the river, held in check by a semi-permeable membrane that allows folks to potentially fish by simple stretching out their hands! Similarly, a dastardly villain/serial killer is slowly feeling the need to escalate his cycle, so catching that person may make for a rewarding quest for PCs and players looking for a more heroic task. Still, I’d actually encourage the GM and players to engage with the “normal” folks and their tasks – the more of these folks and their daily struggles you can introduce and endear to the PCs, the more effective the second part of the module will be. This is also why I’d strongly suggest getting the Dramatis Personae companion book – the more detailed the NPCs are, the easier it’ll be to endear the town to the players and the excessive amount of detail provided makes the settlement come to life much more organically.

 

At one point, whether by catching that serial killer, finding out about the forbidden love of a cleric or by a vast array of other scenarios, powered by the catalyst tracker, the second act will begin. One more thing: Just ignoring quests won’t help either – NOT taking a quest is also a decision…and similarly, influences the tracker! Anyways, act 2 begins…literally, with a bang.

 

You see, this module, in essence, is a catastrophe movie or event book disguised as a massive sandbox. Once your individualized tracker has hit the threshold (or once your PCs have tired of the place), the market place will erupt and the disturbing, purplish-black, light-corrupting eponymous Dark Obelisk will break forth in an epic explosion, killing most folk in the market square and plunging the town into chaos – literally, for, from the invincible monolith and the bottomless chasm that has spawned it, a horde of undead, demons and worse creep forth. Acidic pools of goo litter the streets and the encounters suddenly become a fight for survival.

 

Here, the FlexTale random encounter-mechanic becomes important – if you’re escorting maddened folks spouting eschatological ramblings to safety, you’ll face more powerful foes more often. And yes, folks will die – including the powerful mayor, who’ll give her sword with her dying breath to the PCs. Not everyone can be saved…but many folks can. The more the PCs like a given person, the more likely it is that they survive, if the GM chooses to employ fate rather than his own decisions to make that choice.

 

Basically, where act one was the “everything’s all right”-version of the town, act 3 would be he hell on earth iteration: Walls are crumbled, temples invaded; the dead litter the street; grieving women search for their lovers. Sanctuaries need to be defended against lethal waves of enemies with the help of the militia…only to notice that, ultimately, the price in lives is too high. Indeed, the GM is encourages to use “villainous” and “unstoppable” monsters to make abundantly clear that the PCs won’t defeat this monolith right now – no one knows anything about the invulnerable monument to chaos and death and even these “bosses” may well be beyond the PC’s capabilities to deal with, requiring flight and the smart use of the completely mapped city to avoid.

 

In fact, in the hands of the correct GM, this can be a very Dark Souls-like experience in tone and the way the PCs have to slowly and deliberately choose their actions. Pretty much every character also has a quest (or multiple ones) in this chaos – escort-missions, securing items left behind, rescue missions, searches – there is a ton of stuff to be done here as well. Where before, these small quests were integrated in favor of establishing a homebase, a sympathetic town, the third act’s quests are more combat-centric and more like walking through a warzone or a Walking Dead outbreak chaos scenario: You see small destinies all over the place and narrative threads from act 1 are continued and developed. When handled properly, this will make act 3 feel frantic, somber, frightening and apocalyptic, but all of that hinges on how well act 1 went. Again, this is why I consider the detailed NPC-prose from the dramatis personae book to be this incredibly important. If the players don’t care enough, then the impact of this act is lost, so make use of those attitudes, those excessive fluff-notes.

 

Whether just a day or a whole week, sooner or later, the PCs will have to concede that talking down the elite gate guards and escaping the town, for now, is the only chance they and the besieged survivors have…and once that has been accomplished, once the town has been cleared/abandoned, the module ends….leaving me honestly wondering how that whole sequence will proceed.

 

While the VTT-jpgs etc. are included in the premium atlas and the GM-maps where they’re needed in the module, the book does come with all the player-friendly, well-made and properly redacted maps in the appendices, so if you want the player maps, you don’t need to get the atlas. Speaking of indices: Factions, quests, catalyst impacts, items, dead NPCs and maps all are covered in their own indices, which makes navigating this module significantly easier than you’d expect from such a tome. The three-letter codes etc. also help: Search the code, there you are. Big kudos!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are impressive for a freshman offering AND a one-man-outfit. While I noticed a few instances of a sentence missing, that never pertained rules-relevant material and instead was in a designer’s commentary, etc. The one component where this module makes me cringe is with the rudimentary statblocks and their nonstandard formatting. They are enough to run the module, yes, but why not include the properly formatted ones?? Quite a few GMs won’t care there, but similarly, that may be really glaring for others. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard with a parchment-like background. The pdf comes with a second, backgroundless version. While originally, the electronic versions were missing their bookmarks, a properly bookmarked version has been uploaded to my knowledge. The full-color hardcover I have is a massive tome of a book – in conjunction with the dramatis personae book, they exceed Slumbering Tsar in page count. The inclusion of player-friendly maps herein is a big plus, as far as I’m concerned. Big, big kudos – particularly for redacting secret tunnels etc. on the maps.

 

J. Evans Payne’s “Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte” is AMBITIOUS. Some may say “insane”, but what’s more important to me, at least, is that it tries to do something NEW. I have literally never played a module like this. The staggering detail of the coverage of the sandbox that is the town of Berinncorte is impressive. The fact that it does not read like a gigantic snorefest, in spite of act one’s pretty mundane and harmonic atmosphere, should be considered to be a testament to the quality of the author’s prose, particularly in conjunction with the companion book’s NPC-write-ups. Now, I can’t speak about how this would fare sans its companion tome – I can only speculate, and frankly, I think it’s possible, but harder for the GM to make the players care about the locals without this amount of detailed prose on ALL of them.

 

This stands and falls with PCs and players caring. A good GM can make this an incredibly memorable module, but, in spite of the details, NPCs, maps, etc. stacking the deck in the GM’s favor, this requires a bit of skill to pull off. Roleplaying heavy groups will gravitate to the personal tales of the NPCs; combat-focused ones to the carnage in act 3…and most, probably, will gravitate to both. The impressive achievement here would lie in the massive flexibility of the plot and the attention to detail. In this module, the “small quests”-angle worked perfectly, and I am interested in seeing how this will progress beyond the confines of this installment of the AP: After all, there needs to be a plot and the trackers most certainly can be used in more ways to render future modules just as dynamic. How that’ll work with a more pronounced plot will be intriguing to see.

 

Now, I know, that all sounds a bit strange. here’s the thing: Due to the book being so entwined with its companion and due to the sheer scope, it’s hard to properly describe the book. In fact, this adventure is one of those that plays much better than it reads. There’s a reason I try to play as much as I can. All that preparation, all that consideration in advance? All those quests? here is the biggest plus of this book: You can basically run it with next to no prep time.

 

“Okay, endy has gone off the deep end.” No, I actually haven’t. The searchable codes help. And the level of detail. Throw PCs in, they go to location xyz – you have read-aloud text. You have NPCs. You have quests. Instantaneously. Everywhere. This can be a pretty big thing for some of us. I mentioned in my reviews of this series how obsessively detailed my campaign is, right? I noted how other GMs I know also like that approach, right? Heck, perhaps you had such a campaign, perhaps while in college or university. You know, a campaign with ridiculous details, hundreds of quests? And then, at one point, you didn’t have the time or drive or creativity to provide this level of information. We’ve all been there. I’ve been using a metric ton of modules, since I have a pretty darn good memory and only have to read a module once to run it, even years later. But, well, perhaps you went another road. Perhaps you went to APs and similar new-school modules. And they do a great job telling their story. I love them and collect them religiously. But players used to sandboxing don’t take kindly to railroads and at one point, you’ll be craving this wide-openness, this level of detail. You can go rules-lite for quicker details and material generation, but the crunchy guys and gals will miss the combat options. That’s where this book comes in, at least for me.

 

I’m not a nostalgic man and the sentiment is alien to me; however, I do believe that this book scratches exactly that itch. That craving for a world that feels fully realized, that feels like a concise, deliberate vision. The GM’s task, to a certain degree, is to generate the illusion of a believable world beyond the perception of the players, a world with all the details, that has “always been there” – pay no heed to the man behind the curtain…äh…screen. When PCs go off the rails, that illusion suffers and, in such hyper-detailed environments, chances are that this did not happen.

Because you had it all planed out. This book and its dramatis personae companion tome, used in conjunction, simulate that level of preparation – successfully, I might add.

 

That is a big unique selling proposition as far as modules go. Now, the module is not perfect. As mentioned before in the atlas-review, I consider the overview map to be not up to the quality of the other maps herein. The non-standard statblocks are slightly annoying and, as mentioned in the review of the dramatis personae book, there are some aspects of the formulae used in the creation of these books that need refinement. However, in this review, I’m judging the adventure, not the rest. I do feel the need to explicitly state that, sans the dramatis personae companion book, flawed though that may be, this book loses some of its appeal. I strongly suggest using them in conjunction.

 

I can see this working exceedingly well, perfectly in fact, for some groups, and I can see this being a dud for others. If you want an elaborate, highly complex metaplot, then this may be not for you. If atmosphere and immersion, if urban sandboxing and an epic payoff is what you’re looking for, however, then this delivers. In the end, my final verdict for this adventure, taking all into account, will be 4 stars. With the caveat, however, that you need to be able to see past the copious flaws in statblocks etc. – if that stuff irks you, then you may want to carefully consider this one… Part II of the saga will have a tough act to follow here, for the trick used herein only works once. If you’re looking for something completely different regarding design-philosophy, this is definitely worth checking out.

 

You can get this massive sandbox here on OBS!

 

Want the complete experience? The pdf-bundle is here, the print-bundle here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Apr 272017
 

Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte Dramatis Personae & Bestiary

This massive TOME of a book clocks in at 487 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page mission statement, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 478 pages of material, so let’s take a look!

 

Well, before we do, let us pause for a second and recap the unique aspects of Infinium Game Studios-releases that we’ve covered so far, all right? In my review of the Player’s Guide and the pregens, I talked briefly about the alternate character progression system via reward stars. (It can be easily ignored in favor of XP, just fyi.) In the pregen-book, I noted the quadded statblocks. Basically, we get 4 iterations of every NPC and creature featured in these tomes, which, in conjunction with quadded challenge blocks generally means that you could run the adventure Berinncorte for higher level groups. I’d strongly advise against that, since not all challenges are quadded and due to the tone of the first half of the module – but more on that in my review of the Berinncorte adventure book.

 

It should also be noted that this was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review and further moved up due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

 

So, first of all, what is this? This is basically the crunchy expansion, not *entirely* required, but definitely recommended, for the Berinncorte adventure. Which has redefined “overdelivering” on a KS. 128 pages promised. The end-result is a 1K+ page moloch. If you put adventure and this book back to back, they’re bigger than frickin’ Slumbering Tsar. So yes, there is a LOT of material in this book.

 

Now this book introduces another innovation for the game, namely FlexTale. FlexTale, alongside catalysts and attitude trackers, represents the means by which this tome tries to simulate a dynamic, vibrant environment and, as far as I’m concerned, these aspects on the GM side of things are resounding successes. Let me digress a bit.

 

I’m a pretty obsessive GM regarding world building, consistency and lore. My own campaigns have their own private BOARD, where I post updates during downtime, NPC-vignettes (“Meanwhile in…”) for allies and cohorts, summaries and meticulously track creatures and NPCs encountered in a massive compendium. My farmers tend to have names, even if I made them up on the fly or took them from a dressing book – and thereafter, the farmer *will* always be known by that name. He’ll have relatives, etc. I know a couple of GMs who take that approach or at least took it at one point. The downside here is that you have to track all those NPCs…and not even I am obsessive enough to stat all those non-combat relevant folks. This massive tome tries to do exactly that – give a name to pretty much everyone. Seamstress? Named. Butcher? Named. And all have their own agenda, daily lives and the like.

 

In this vast flood of information, it may seem daunting, borderline impossible to keep track of all those NPCs. The aforementioned aspects, though, help immensely with this and are one of the reasons I consider this companion tome to be pretty non-optional. Let’s take a step back and return to the FlexTable – these tables have multiple columns – sometimes, these columns are based on the attitude to PCs, sometimes on outside circumstances. When escorting an obnoxious, loud drunk through hostile territory, you’ll e.g. roll on the nastier columns for random encounters than when you’re being relatively covert. Makes sense, right? Similarly, NPCs with a good relationship to the PCs are less likely to die off-screen, as the PCs and players have invested in them. This, as a whole, creates a dynamic and slightly random element that sounds capricious at first glance, but actually keeps the playing experience rather interesting for the GM as well.

 

In case you haven’t deduced that by now: Berinncorte is a massive urban sandbox, so expect no railroading here. In fact, in that way, it’s closest to how I run my main campaign: I have a metric ton of adventures and my players always have the choice to play or ignore a given module, go elsewhere, etc. Similarly, none of the quests in this book *have* to be completed per se.

 

Now, the true reason I consider this book to be utterly non-optional when running Berinncorte would be the attitude trackers. Think of these as a band of numbers, ranging from 1 – 29. Each NPC herein has his or her own attitude tracker. A value of 1 – 6 denotes a starting attitude of “hostile”, 7 – 12 “unfriendly” etc. – in short: This allows for a surprisingly easy and nuanced depiction of NPC attitudes towards the PCs and provides a more nuanced and rewarding way to reward roleplaying interaction: Engaging in conversation with a grieving person and lifting heir spirits could result in +4 on the attitude tracker; some folks have prejudices and as such, they may react less (or more!) favorable towards certain races or groups that contain certain professions. The system is elegant, easy to grasp and the one I ended up using all the time. I’m a big, big fan of this one.

 

Now, this tome has two basic chapters, denoted by the color-coded fore-edge: One for the NPCs and one for the creatures. Once again, we have characters using PFU’s Artistry skill in their builds.

 

All right, let’s get the unpleasantness out of the way first.: Much like in the pregens, we have errors in the statblocks – spellcasting DCs, for one. There are hiccups here. Then again, these are NPCs and as such, these are slightly less jarring than in statblocks for PCs. PC and NPC classes are used in the builds.

 

On the big plus-side, the builds use weapon and armor qualities in the higher level iterations and generally are…better made than the statblocks in the Pregen-book. We even get multi-class characters this time around. While there are a few typos and the like “bullrish”, for example), they show that more care went into them. I may be mistaken, but I have pretty sensitive antennae when it comes to the like and the builds look and feel more like there was personal attention devoted to them to make sure they make at least some sense.

 

Now, that would, as a whole, still leave the massive NPC-section as a mixed bag, but this is also where the attitude tracker aspect once again comes in: You see, each NPC comes with a MASSIVE (and I mean ~1 page per NPC-massive!) summary of how you can improve attitudes via actions, conversations, etc. Arrested PCs, failed bribes, racial familiarity, certain confrontational aspects, purchases made at vendors – all of that can influence the attitude. (And yes, if that’s too much tracking for your liking, you can always ignore some – though simple marking the current attitude on the respective tracker with a pencil worked well for me.) The big plus here is that this, much like conversations in video games etc., simulates an organic growth of relationships in a rather impressive and organic manner.

 

“But endy”, you’re saying, “I don’t care about that!” Well, there is another aspect to these NPCs that is a reason I consider this book to be highly recommended for Berinncorte. And that would be the fluff. Each NPC herein comes with a rather long section describing them and their personality; after that, a similarly long one depicting the appearance of the character in question. Combat tactics are also covered and finally, faction-allegiance, if any, is elaborated upon. However, this is not where the obsessive attention to detail stops – in fact, we’ve just started. Beyond these, lists of known spells for spellcasters and the like, we get notes on logistics – when and where the character can usually be found. Further background notes are also part of the deal.

 

Now, at one point, a calamity will befall Berinncorte – each NPC gets information on how that calamity is experienced, how it affects the character, etc. Oh, and beyond even that, we get read-aloud text for conversations with the respective NPC on likely topics like the strife between two churches, the rule, the profession…etc. These also include skill check notes to determine lies, further information or to engage, for example, in an informed discussion. The amount of detail provided for each NPC allows the GM to easily, on the fly even, bring the respective characters to life, further emphasizing the intention of creating a plausible and dynamic environment for the PCs to explore.

 

While the basics of these NPCs are included in the adventure book, these detailed notes and attitude modifications add significant value to the experience of running/playing Berinncorte. Beyond a vast array of named NPCs, unnamed ones gain the same treatment – clerical staff, militia, common thieves, hired goons…etc. The militia receives its own attitude tracker, as does clergy staff and the mayor’s guards or common townsfolk, though other unnamed ones don’t get that. While the named NPCs get a handy indexing table, the unnamed PCs and bestiary seems to be missing its index – where it should be, there’s only […] on an otherwise mostly blank page.

 

The bestiary section once again features the quadded statblocks, but alas, the statblocks suffer from the same issues the others suffered from – we oddly get a line for “class” of a critter, reading e.g. “Undead 10” – which is NOT how creatures are formatted. There is no “undead” class. We have typos (sometimes hilarious ones – like “Neuter” instead of “neutral”) and, once again, while the base statblocks tend to generally be more functional, in the upgrades to higher levels, we have serious, serious glitches – like AC not checking out and the like. The particularly powerful boss monsters get their own sub-chapter, once again missing the index. On the plus-side, the monsters herein often diverge from their standard PFRPG iterations – the lowest CR babau herein, for example, has better initiative, different feats, etc. – so no, this book did not take the easy way out there.

 

We end this book with a final section that covers animals…and, oddly, base skeletons, which should probably be in the regular bestiary section.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are at the same time impressively good…and seriously flawed. On a formal level, it is impressive to note how precise this book was crafted; there are significantly fewer formal glitches in this tome than I expected. This does not change, however, that the missing sub-indices and glitches hamper the overall usefulness of the book. It’s an impressive feat for a one-man outfit, sure – but I wished this had a dedicated second set of eyes for the stats. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard for text, with a parchment-like background. Quadded statblocks and attitude trackers are all color-coded, making their use rather intuitive. The pdf comes with a second, backgroundless and thus, more printer-friendly version. The book sports a couple of nice, well-made b/w-artworks for some of the key-NPCs. The hardcover is massive and icons + text on the spine make it easily stand out on the shelf. I’d strongly suggest getting the hardcover over the electronic version. Why? Because the pdf has no bookmarks, which is a SERIOUS comfort detriment when using such a tome. Additionally, the option to scribble on the attitude trackers is surprisingly helpful, so the physical version is definitely the way to go.

J. Evans Payne’s Berinncorte is extremely ambitious. This book and its companion are pretty much inseparable as far as I’m concerned and what we have here is an attempt to reach for the stars, something I wholeheartedly applaud. We have enough boring “kill gobbos, ogre boss at the end”-scenarios. We need books like this. The fact that this, apart from the artwork, is the work of one man, is stunning and truly impressive to me. In fact, all my complaints nonewithstanding, the book is significantly better than I expected it to be, some may say, than it has any right to be.

 

Reviewing this, alas, is HARD. You see, this book is the companion to the adventure and hard to analyze on its own. If you take away that connection, you’re not doing the book justice. At the same time, even in conjunction with the adventure, it left me torn.

One side of me is gleefully taking stock of all those details, of the lovingly-crafted dressing, of the trackers and the like. At the same time, this book leaves a part of me disgruntled. Why? The justification of this book’s existence lies in two factors: 1) The incredibly detailed attitude tracking system, read-aloud text etc. – the attention to detail for the respective NPCs. 2) The quadded statblocks, providing a wealth of crunch for GMs to pursue, far beyond what the adventure book could offer.

 

And herein lies the crux: You see, in the adventure book, we get only rudimentary stats. Heck, they don’t even adhere to proper PFRPG-statblock formatting conventions. They make me cringe whenever I look at them. So, if we want the proper stats, we need to get this book. I’d usually say that the quadded statblocks provide a significantly increased value for the GM regarding the sheer material this offers, but, while better than the pregen-book, but therein lies the problem: If they’d be precise, creative and to the point, I’d praise this book to the high heavens. And there are some builds in this tome that certainly show some care. But, as a whole, I also noticed a lot of the higher level statblocks with issues. And we’re not talking about “one skill too much”, but about wrong AC and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect super-duper stats with x templates – we have series for such NPCs out there. But I expect the base functionality to be there and that cannot be claimed for all of them, particularly for those beyond the levels in which you’d usually play the adventure.

 

This, thus, leaves the quadded statblock concept, amazing as it is (big fan – seriously!), requiring some serious refinement in future offerings. And it generates this disjoint. Because, you know, we want the base stats and the lavish detail for each NPC…but we also get 3 iterations of stats we won’t be using – not even for reskinned characters and critters. This makes quadded statblocks, as presented here, as much a feature as a bug. Personally, I couldn’t help but wish that attitude tracker and awesome, detailed fluff for the NPCs has been included in the adventure book, alongside the proper, low-level stats.

 

Thing is, I only found myself contemplating this due to the rough edges of the quadded statblock implementation. If this concept worked as intended, it would add a TREMENDOUS amount of value to this book and totally justify the adventure book’s rudimentary stats. But…it kinda does not.

 

Which eliminates at least a significant part of one of the big arguments for this book. It doesn’t help me much regarding a verdict, though. Why? As flawed as the execution may be, this book still features a ton of material and a lot of detail. I adore the attitude tracker system and the hand-crafted prose for the NPCs, their interactions and information VASTLY enhances the adventure. In fact, you could well pull that out of the context of the adventure entirely. Still, as a stand-alone book, I’d consider this a mixed bag. Whether you find value in this tome depends on two aspects: Do you want the obsessive, amazing detail for the NPCs, the simulationalist, highly nuanced tapestry of NPCs? Or are you in primarily for the crunch? If your group is focused primarily on combat, considers interaction with NPCs boring, then this may not be for you. If, however, you’re looking to run Berinncorte and your players love talking with NPCs, getting immersed in the environments, if they enjoy lavish details and the feeling of having fallen into a world that is as detailed as can be, then the NPC fluff and read-aloud text, the attitude trackers and peculiarities of the folks will make this very much worthwhile.

 

In short, I can see people really loving this as well as people considering it a waste of time. I could find reasons to smash this down to 2 stars for its flaws, and I could argue in favor of its virtues and arrive at 4 stars and both would be viable; in fact, depending on the priorities I set for myself, on what I look for, I can understand both. If I were to rate this one its own, as separate from the adventure book, I’d probably arrive closer to the former; in conjunction with the adventure book, I’d arrive closer to the latter verdict.

 

There is a ton of neat content in this book and it *is* intended as the companion to the adventure book, though – which is how I will rate it. As a stand-alone, it does seriously lose some of its appeal, so beware in that regard.

 

In the end, I can’t rate this as high as some of its aspects deserve, but neither can I bash it as thoroughly for its flaws as a part of me would like to. Because, in the end, in such tough cases, I revert to my own rule zero for reviewing: Did this provide fun and joy for me and my table? Yes, it did. In spite of the pronounced flaws, the wealth of roleplaying information within made this worthwhile for me.

 

It is also part of the author’s freshman offering, so it does get a bit of a leeway there. Still, I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars for this book, rounded up by the tiniest of margins – because it does significantly enhance its companion adventure and holds within its pages one of the most rewarding aspects of the Berinncorte adventure. It should be noted that this verdict ONLY is viable in conjunction with the adventure.

Those looking for immersion, roleplaying information for the adventure and the like should definitely round up, provided you can stomach the imperfections. If you want precise stats, a pure crunch book, however, look elsewhere – in that discipline, the book would barely make 3 stars.

 

You can get this massive tome here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Apr 262017
 

Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte Premium Atlas (system neutral)

The premium atlas for the first part of the excessively detailed Dark Obelisk AP clocks in at a massive 139 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page mission statement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with132 pages of MAPS.

 

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy of it and due to being chosen as a prioritized review via my patreon.

 

Yes, you read correctly. 132 pages of maps. Now, first things first – what kind of maps do we get? The book is roughly separated in 4 different chapters: Two featuring maps for Act One of “Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte”, two representing the changed circumstances that can be found in Act 3 of the massive module.

 

As you may have deduced, one such chapter each contains the respective GM-maps, one the player-maps. The GM-maps feature keys on them, secret doors and the like – and the player’s maps can actually be used as handouts as is: The deceptive numbers and secret door/trap notes have been completely purged from those iterations – which is a COLOSSAL plus as far as I’m concerned. Heck, even crawlspaces, noted on the GM-map, have been redacted – on the player map, a solid wall separates the two connected caverns. That’s going above and beyond. Big plus!!

 

Now, let’s talk a bit about the maps within, starting with the least pleasant component. The overview map of Berinncorte is easily the worst and only map in this atlas I’d consider bad. The city is almost quadratic and a bit claustrophobic – it’s only an overview and not the most impressive one at that. HOWEVER, that is about as much negative things I have to say about this book. You see, the atlas contains maps for EVERYTHING.

 

No, that is not a hyperbole. If it’s within the walls of Berinncorte, it’s mapped. Little militia hut? Mapped. Cryptkeeper’s shack? Mapped. Cellars? Mapped. In subterranean environments, you can see the barely visible outlines of buildings above, in case your PCs want to do a bit of digging. In short: The attention to detail is impressive indeed. The full-color maps show benches, columns, barrels, wood – basically, they show every non-dynamic object/creature, providing significantly more detail than what you’d expect. While made with software, they look much better than pretty much all computer-generated maps I’ve seen before. Heck, you can see the symbols on rugs, the textile shop has differently colored rolls of cloth on the counter – it is rather impressive to see this amount of detail.

 

Now, something to be aware of regarding the town of Berinncorte, would be an architectural peculiarity that may or may not irk you and may or may not be due to the limitations of the software used to make these maps: The lower residential area and upper residential area do not consist of free-standing houses, but, at least from what I gathered, look like multiple folks live under the same roof in a kind of apartment-like situation. In the case of the upper residential district that could be explained by guest rooms and the map could make for ONE big, nice mansion – but the overview map and the holistic coverage of the rest of the town make it look like this is the totality of the district. Now, granted, that is NOT unheard of – in fact, it was more common than most folks would expect, at least according to the chronicles of cities I’ve read, but it represents a departure from how most folks picture a fantasy city, so that’s certainly something to bear in mind. Personally, I’m good with this decision, mind you. Still, if one such building indeed is all there is, then the beds as opposed to the characters, including militia etc., even when taking barrack beds into account, don’t check out. (And yes, this will not come up in 99.9999% of games and should tell you something about how obsessive I can be…thus, it will not influence the final verdict.)

 

Now, I have already mentioned that there is a cataclysm in Berinncorte at one point – and thus, the Act 3 maps may depict the same environments – but they are radically different from what we’ve seen before – bloodsplatters, shattered columns, smoke, ash…and worse. Corpses litter the streets and buildings and nary a place has been left intact, with walls incinerated and STRANGE things popping up on the maps – they may depict variants of the maps we already covered, but they do so in the best of ways. Now, on some of the player maps, fixed monsters appear, denoting enemies that constitute living “no trespassing” signs – but since these critters are tied to the respective locales, I’m good with that. Still, personally, I would have preferred these tokens to be omitted – or added on their own token-page for the GM to cut out and move around. Oh well.

 

Conclusion:

Obsessive level of detail. That’s how I’d describe “Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte” in a nut-shell. The hand-crafted maps contained in this atlas perfectly encapsulate this philosophy, providing the attention to detail and sheer amount of maps I wanted, all in full-color! The pdf version comes with a second, background-less printer-friendly version and the respective maps sport their own scales, another plus. The electronic version did lack bookmarks, but as per the writing of this review, bookmarked versions have been made available – kudos for the quick response/fix there! The color hardcover is definitely the way to go, if you can afford it.

J. Evans Payne went above and beyond and even redacted crawlspaces, secret doors and the like, adding some serious value to the book at hand. Speaking of value: This massive map-material is also included in a massive (300+ MBs!) archive, which contains all the maps as high-res jpgs for VTT-use. These individual maps are properly named “-GM” or “-Players” and are further organized by Act for your convenience. That’s going above and beyond, as far as I’m concerned.

 

It should be noted that these maps, while obviously intended for use with the adventure, may well be worth the investment if you’re looking for a fully mapped fantasy town.

 

So, how to rate this? Well, I really, really like this map book. It delivers everything I wanted from it, with only minor flaws: Tokens on a precious few maps; the overview map is not nearly on par with the cool maps of the individual buildings/environments. Still, as a whole, I feel justified in rating this 4.5 stars, rounding up due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this is part of a freshman offering.

 

You can get this massive map book here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Apr 262017
 

Caster Prestige Archetype: Diabolist

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with about 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X’s flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept…something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the “prestige”-aspect – the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue – while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize “prestige”, we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

 

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you’d expect and it has to be – after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

 

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring – they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

 

The diabolist prestige archetype herein is built with the wizard as a base class, but alternate rules for arcanist, cleric, oracle, psychic, sacerdote, soceror and witch are included. Diabloists need to be Lawful Evil and get d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and the favored weapon of the patron and 1/2 BAB-progression as well as good Will-save progression. They get full prepared spellcasting, governed by Int, of up to 9th level and receive a cleric’s evil aura. Being damned to hell, diabolists are harder to resurrect, requiring a CL check to bring back. At 10th level, the diabolist is potent enough to be exempt from this rule.

The prestige archetype begins play with an infernal, lawful evil familiar and is locked into having that – so not bonded object. The diabloist gains bonus spells, courtesy of his infernal patrons – these, unsurprisingly, would be rather charm/fire-themed.

 

2nd level yields the ability to channel hellfire when casting fire spells, a number of times per day equal to the highest mental attribute modifier, minimum 1. This is done as a fee action and modifies the standard spell’s fire damage to inflict hellfire, which is here defined as 1/2 fire damage and 1/2 damage from an unholy source, which does not affect evil creatures, but doubly affects good targets. Kudos for not falling into the “invent damage type” trap here. Also: creatures affected by protection from evil or law are not affected, which is a cool failsafe, though the pdf forgot to italicize these spell references. Starting at 14th level, this ability may be used in conjunction with all damaging spells. Kudos: Descriptor-changes, if applicable, are covered. Nice catch here!

 

4th level yields a +2 bonus to Charisma and Charisma-based checks when interacting with devils and fiendish creatures. This bonus is further increased by +2 at 10th and 18th level. 6th level yields free Improved Familiar, but locks the diabolist in the imp choice. 8th level provides a hell-themed 1/day dimension door or plane shift – this is considered to be a lawful and evil act and cannot penetrate areas warded from teleportation. Speaking of which: the diabolist gains an additional daily use at 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter, with each such increase also unlocking a new SP like teleport or, at 20th level, gate, though these uses consume progressively more daily uses of the ability. Diabolists with obediences may trade in daily uses of the ability for obedience boons for an alternate ability progression – which makes surprising sense, as far as I’m concerned.

 

As a capstone, the diabolist may use the calling spell of planar binding when calling a named devil as a standard action and bargaina s a move action. Damn (haha!) cool!

 

As mentioned above, we do get alternate build notes for e.g. psychic etc.-based diabolists. The Prestige archetype also has custom favored class options for anpur, avoodim, dhosari, erkunae, kobolds, tengu and tieflings as well as the core races – these generally are pretty interesting and thematically fitting – humans can e.g. be sooner exempt from the no-resurrection drawback.

 

The pdf also has a brief appendix depicting the Infernal Obedience feat (guess thrice what that one does) – the boons are btw. unlocked at 12, 16 and 20 HD and two sample, generic archdevil obediences are included: Contracts, Pride, Slavery and Tyranny nets darkness, deeper darkness or burning hands as SPs as the first boon, then perfect sight via ember eyes and a thirdly, a 1/day delayed fireball hellfire blast as an SP. The second generic obedience would be Contracts, Devils, Secrets – boon uno provides unseen servant, detect thoughts or glibness as SPs. Boon deux provides the means to infiltrate clergy and pass as one of theirs. Number 3 is cool: Cha-mod times per day, it lets you revoke the healing a creature received from you at your whim. I totally can see that work as a cool narrative device!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG’s signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

 

Carl Cramér’s diabolist is a surprisingly cool prestige archetype – it does not try to reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to. The obedience interactions are cool, the rules-language, for the most part, exceedingly precise. In the few cases where it deviates from standard wording, it is only a cosmetic one “level 12” instead of 12th level, for example. So yeah, as a whole, I really liked this one. Granted, I think that e.g. cleric should have its own dedicated diabolist to make better use of the hellfire theme, but for the arcane folks, this constitutes a nice and well-wrought prestige archetype. Well worth 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this cool prestige archetype here on OBS!

 

You can get the whole subscription here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Apr 262017
 

Caster Prestige Archetypes: Demoniac

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.75 pages of SRD, leaving us with slightly more than 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X’s flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept…something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the “prestige”-aspect – the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue – while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize “prestige”, we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

 

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you’d expect and it has to be – after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

 

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring – they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

 

That out of the way, let us take a look at the class herein, with is built on the chassis of wizard and the demoniac, with d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, with d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, full spellcasting progression, good Will-saves and 1/2 BAB-progression. Proficiency-wise, they only get simple weapons and their patron’s favored weapon. They must be chaotic evil.

 

Demoniacs begin play with a chaotic evil cleric’s aura may spend a demonic favor to gain a wizard bonus feat. These guys may lose a prepared spell to lose a prepared spell in favor of summon monster (not properly italicized), and at 2nd level the demoniac gains an obedience – which can be found in the Demon Lords of Porphyra supplement – color me stoked for obediences, but be aware that as per the writing of this review, these had not yet been released, but if the ones from the Inner Sea Guide are emulated, I’m looking forward to seeing them!

The same goes for the demonic boons – the first is gained on 8th level, with 12th and 16th level providing the follow-up second and third boon. These are also governed by the respective demon lord, so not sure yet how they turned out.

4th level yields nets the demoniac a demonic brand that shows his abyssal allegiance while also acting as a divine focus. 1day, this mark may be invoked as part of casting a spell, adding the chaotic and evil descriptors to the spell…and said spell is not expended upon being cast!

 

At 3rd level, 7th level and every 3 levels after that, the demoniac receives a demonic favor – this ability can provide a bonus feat, a familiar, energy resistance or a saving throw bonus versus one type of effect chosen from a list, allowing for some nice defensive customizations. Starting at 6th level, the demoniac is damned and thus harder to retrieve from the bowels of the abyss, should he perish.

 

10th level provides the energumen ability, which 1/day, allows a demonic spirit to possess the demoniac for a total number of rounds equal to his class level. This possession yields a +2 profane bonus to an ability score of the demoniac’s choice, increasing to +4 at 14th level, while also granting electricity resistance 10 and +4 to saves versus poison, These bonuses further increase to +6 and immunities at 18th level. However, after this burst of demonic power, the demoniac must succeed a Will-save or be confused for a number of rounds…which can end up badly indeed. Kudos: The pdf acknowledges the possession effect as such and properly codifies the rules governing it.

 

The capstone, how could it be any different, would be a demonic apotheosis; however, even here we get a bit of player agenda, with a component of the form being up to the player to choose from. The pdf also covers demoniacs that stray from their destructive path and their means of atonement.

 

As per the tradition of this new series, we receive information on using arcanist, cleric, oracle, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror and witch as alternate chassis-bases, so if you wanted to play a demoniac based on one of those classes, you’re in luck. The prestige archetype does include a significant array of class-specific favored class options for core races and some of the stars of the Porphyran races.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG’s signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

 

Carl Cramér’s demoniac is hard to judge in its general potency due to boons and obediences being not included in this pdf. However, since these would not be part of the pdf anyways, I will judge the prestige archetype for what it is as a chassis and reserve obediences etc. for the file that will contain them. As a class, the demoniac, from what I can see, works pretty well. Now granted, the base PrC could be more interesting as far as I’m concerned, but the pdf does a solid job at translating the class into a proper base class. While it does not reach the universal appeal of some other Prestige Archetypes, it represents a nice installment in the series, well worth a tentative verdict of 4 stars – as mentioned, I still need to pick apart those demon lords, but chassis-wise, I don’t see inherent issues in this prestige archetype.

 

You can get this nice prestige archetype here on OBS!

 

You can get the whole subscription here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.