Apr 272015
 

In the mind-boggling success of my patreon, I almost managed to forget this one:

 

The Westbound KS, brought to you by the Pure Steam-crew, is nearing its final hours – 7 hours to go as we speak and it has just funded!

 

If the concept of Steampunk Wildwest tickles your fancy, check it out here!

 

(Note, no I am not affiliated with them in any way, just figured I’d let you know since I almost forgot!)

 

Back to reviewing,
Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 272015
 

Mythic Monsters: Emissaries of Evil

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This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As always, we kick off this installment of the Mythic Monsters-series with a supplemental piece of content – which this time around turns out to be nothing less than an awesome, disturbing piece of prose – really liked this flavorful introduction!

 

After getting thus in the mood for all kinds of nastiness, we dive in head first with the CR 6/MR 2 Achaierai – flinging bites and nigh impenetrable legs enhance this creature in just the right way – so we’re off to a good start. And it does not become worse – or it does, at least from a PC’s point of view. The Ankou (CR 17/MR 7) now is a true force to be reckoned with – in the careful hands of a sadistic DM like yours truly these guys can be rendered nigh-unkillable, thanks to the awesome new shadow double-related trickery they can pull off. The build also utilizes two mythic variants of feats provided for your perusal. Indeed, that is a tendency, for the next creature, the CR 13/MR 5 Dorvae also utilizes such a feat. With an aura of psychic poison and grappling/poison-bite synergy, these beings receive an appropriate lethality upgrade over their non-mythic brethren.

 

One of my favorite creatures ever, the CR 8/MR 3 hellcat not only receives deadly telepathy to coordinate attacks, they also get a menacing purr – and yes, the imagery is glorious: What is worse than an invisible extraplanar predator seeking to tear you asunder? A group of them, always present and coordinating the attacks launched on the unsuspecting mortal fools…and always, there’s this purring. There’s a classic gothic novel/horror adventure just begging to be constructed around this creature.

 

Mythic Immortal Ichor (at CR 21/ MR 8) can squeeze through the tiniest of spots, cause acid damage and charm effects…oh, and it can use mythic power to actually friggin’ drown foes. NASTY!!! And yeah, their swarms are nastier as well. The Night Hag (CR 11/MR 4) can use mythic power to make the curse inflicted by her claws permanent and has infectious, carnivorous maggots in her mouth. Yeah! But that is NOT where these gals stop – beyond summoning mythic mounts (with synergy of exactly that installment of this very series), they actually can come back to haunt (and potentially kill!) you in your dreams, forcefully reincarnating into you, killing you in the process. And you thought Freddy was bad news…

 

Okay, at Cr 6/MR 2, the Shadow Mastiff is just one of what my group calls the “hellhound-wannabe-clan” – i.e. low CR, canine evil outsiders. Thankfully, the mastiff finally receives some distinct, unique tricks – namely shadowporting and becoming a cold-based incorporeal shadowy form – thank you for finally making these poor puppies stand out a bit! At CR 4/MR 1, the Yeth Hounds also belong to this club – and with the stunning, potentially madness-causing cursed critical, they also finally receive some tricks to make them stand out and not feel like “hell Hound minus fire, plus lame fear.”

 

At the same CR/MR, the Urdefhan with their suicide blasts and lethal swords can also be considered a well-made upgrade of the basic creature. The lowest end of the spectrum, CR and MR-wise, is provided for by the Vargouille at CR 3/MR 1 – which may now execute kisses via mythic power at range – nice idea and a kiss you definitely don’t want to catch! Another, even better example for great low level mythic monster upgrades would be the Soulshriver at the same rating – these guys can attack reflections to cause cha-damage, mirror hop, etc. – and a perfect candidate to show some overly cocky adventurers who’s the boss. A classic example of a creature, which now, even more so than before, can drive whole plots and cut down foes beyond its usual CR when played smart. Superb one!

 

At CR 15/MR 6, the mythic version of the shining child provides a nice example of a mythic upgrade that can be considered a numerical escalation, an increase in power and flexibility, but at the same time, I felt as though the awesome concept of the base-creature could have provided for some more disturbing abilities than those provided – yes, using mythic power for massive bonus damage is nice and all…but still. Then again, that may just be the fan of the creature speaking.

 

The original creature of this installment could have been taken, at least from the neat one-page artwork, right from the Fatal Frame/Project Zero-games. The CR 6/MR 2 Maldonado is the discorporate remnant of a fallen angel, forever depending on the bodies of mortals, whose faces it may change. And it IS deadly – I’ve never seen a build so consequently focused on possessing beings – from being able to perform the deed via multiple abilities, sans touch and with various action-types, these guys will be pretty hard to keep out…oh, and yes, it can force rerolls. It can also potentially bypass protection from evil and similar tricks. And its compelling, cool write-up and prose make what otherwise would be another possessing incorporeal creature a) distinct and b) awesome beyond the narrow mechanic focus on being the master-possessor.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ nice two-column full color standard and the artworks by Mike Lowe are beautiful and very distinct, breathing a sense of appropriate history. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with unobtrusive bookmarks.

This installment is the work of more than the core-team for the series, a quick glimpse at the author-line among the credits-lists reads like this: Jason Nelson, Alistair Rigg, Tom Philips, Mike Welham, Todd Stewart and Sean K. Reynolds. If you’re halfway familiar with designers, you won’t wonder anymore why this installment of the Mythic Monsters-series is literally all-killer, no filler. Even creatures I personally loathe in their original iterations have received a couple of cool tricks that set them distinctly apart from their mundane, lamer brethren. My special applause, though, is reserved for night hag and soul shriver – these two are so inspired, so infinitely cooler, I absolutely adore them – they are the stand-out beasts in an excellent installment that truly deserves the moniker “Legendary” – 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this stand-out supplement, even in this great product-line, here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 272015
 

Gossamer Worlds: GlimmerGloam (Diceless)

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This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So what is GlimmerGloam? The easiest way to describe it, would be to call it a realm of dark, dualistic whimsy – somewhere between the narratives of the realm of the fey and classic tales of Alice, albeit more akin to American McGee’s interpretation. It is a world, where different species of fey abound and the Umbra rules – where counting steps or latent attempts at cartography only result in the very land thwarting your attempts. It is also a place, where the only influence of eidolon manifests in groundhog-dayish repetitions of feuds, where adversaries conveniently killed the night before suddenly exhibit an improbable twin or downright ignore death or decapitation (and it’s rude to point that out, mind you!) – GlimmerGloam, in a nutshell, is insane and you better know what you’re in for.

 

Thank the stair, there is this nice BungleCat – not akin our classic Cheshire friend, but oh so much worse – much akin to Rite’s classic Smiles-under-the-Bed NPC, this beast may be nice, but seeing things in a different light, more often than not can be taken literally in GlimmerGloam – the realm is defined by a plethora of meanings being assigned in alternating and even simultaneous patterns to EVERYTHING, with lighting conditions often triggering a flux. Hence, the friendly cat may pretty quickly turn into a xenophobic stalker or even a dragon-sized demon-being trying to murder you and everyone that crosses its path – all in good fun, of course. For reliable information, you may instead wish to consult the jabberwock’s severed head, now employed as the realm’s most deadly jack-in-the-box. Much can be gleaned, if you can survive the deadly eye-rays, madness-inducing aura…you know, all in good fun.

 

Oh, and if you thought the red queen was bad – GlimmerGloam’s fully statted ruler, the white Rabbit Queen, is nothing to sneeze at – with various forms, an intelligent mirror aptly named delirium and a vorpal needle-cum-sword, she makes for a fearsome ruler – in spite of the half-crashed supposed-to-be-floating castle and similar oddities. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that the oddity of the realm also results in actually unique special properties for the realm?

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.

 

Matt Banach has a gift for providing environments, in which the imagination is incited, runs rampant and his experience with the realm of dreams (as in his Lost in Dream-novel and in the work for Coliseum Morpheuon-related products) and the odd, irrational logic which applies there. This can easily and perfectly be seen in this installment of Gossamer Worlds – when each character and locale not only resounds with literary quotations, but also with symbolic gravitas, we receive a rather interesting supplement full of entwined meanings, evocative connotations conjured forth by clever use of nomenclature and symbols. It’s also a nod towards one of the most influential, creative and complex myths in literature and I love it for that. So do yourself a favor, get this, use it, and if you have it, get your Norton Critical Edition Annotated Alice – with the latter, you can further amp up the already impressive content herein by at least a factor of threleven hundsand! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this inspired supplement here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 262015
 

…but it’s the only meager way language offers to describe the level of gratitude I feel right now. I am humbled beyond belief at the outpouring of support you folk show.

 

I always stood up for being a gamer and told non-gamers that we’re good people. But the nagging cynic in me never really let me believe that I was making a difference. No matter how many hits my reviews scored, I honestly expected this patreon to end up with cicadas chirping and tumbleweeds.

 

I can’t fathom the level of support you’ve shown me so far – I honestly never expected to hit even the second milestone and you’ve crushed it in less than 24 hours. I am stupefied. Dumbfounded. Euphoric.

 

I also realize the responsibility I have to shoulder now – I will NOT let you fine folks down. I have a bunch of reviews written and finished, all ready for publication next week – and I’m going to ask *you* what you’ll liek to see me tackle next. I will compile a list and see to it that you receive what you want – the reviews of the files that interest you.

 

Once again, thank you – you blow my mind!

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 242015
 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I am now on patreon. Please take a look at my profile and consider supporting my reviews!

You can take a look at the patreon here! (or by clicking on the link on the right border of my homepage!

 

I have also compiled a list of questions over the last weeks, so in case you’re not familiar with patreon, if you’re wondering why I made the step to start a campaign – all those questions are answered.

 

Q: Sooo, EZG, what is this patreon-thingy you set up?

A: Patreon is a crowdfunding service somewhat akin to kickstarter or IndieGoGo – however, unlike these, patreon is intended mostly for continuous services and production, not short burst funding.

 

Q: When do you get paid?

A: The 5th of each month.

 

Q: How much fees does patreon take?

A: Patreon takes 5% and there are additional credit card fees that range from 2-4%.

Credit card fees

PayPal fees – 5% + $0.05 per transaction.

Patreon bulk processes all patron pledges to decrease fees. That means if you’re supporting two creators, your credit card or PayPal will only be charged one time for all pledges. Those fees will then be split among the creators.

Transfer fees

International creators (that would be me) receiving payment via PayPal have a fee of 2% of the amount transferred, capped at $20 per deposit.

 

Q: When am I charged?

A: You won’t be charged until the 1st of every month, and it usually takes a full 72 hours for all pledges to process. You’ll receive an email that will indicate whether your pledge was successfully processed or declined. You can find more information on pledging and related concerns in the official Patreon FAQ.

 

Q:  Got ya, so, I saw that there are two funding models for Patreon campaigns – per service provided and per month. Which one do you use and why?

A: Patreon has two models it supports – the first model charges you the amount you’re willing to donate per product/video/text, the second charges you per month. Seeing how many reviews I produce, the former would have been rather insane, so I opted for the monthly model: No matter how many reviews I produce, whether it’s 15 or 5 per week, the amount remains the same. And yes, I am totally committed to producing as many as possible. This also spares you the hassle of having to set a maximum amount per month and imho is the fairer of the two models.

 

Q: What if I have a bad month and can’t afford the patronage?

A: You can cancel your patronage with one simple click – and just as simply check back in, if your situation improves. This also allows you to cancel your patronage whenever you think I’m slacking – which is pretty much contrary to my very nature, but you do have that added security nonetheless. :)

 

Q: I am an author/publisher and wish to support you – can I do so?

A: Yes, but you should be aware that my disclaimer still applies – my unbiased stance remains my top priority, so donations do not influence my final verdict of any book you release. Much like sending me dead tree versions of your books, though, the patreon can be used to make me move books to the top of my queue. I think this is a pretty fair solution. And no, I do not expect any of you to support this patreon – lack of support will not result in any hurt feelings by yours truly! :)

 

Q: Hej EZG, other patreons provide exclusive benefits for their backers – why don’t you?

A: That’s a complex one I’ve been pondering for quite a while. I see the situation like this – unlike most patreon campaigns, I am not selling a particular product, but instead provide a free service intended for both my audience and for the greater good for all 3pps. Hiding the content I produce behind a paywall would seem disingenuous and counterproductive to me – I want this patreon to be an inclusive experience, not one that excludes people in an unfortunate financial situation. Penalizing long-time readers or supportive publishers by limiting the exposure of the reviews is not something I want to do – I firmly believe, cynical though I may be, that gamers are upright and good people and that if some of you believe that my service has some value, you’re willing to throw a tip my way.

 

Q: So what’s in it for me?

A: Well, for one, the warm fuzzy feeling of gratitude for keeping reviews alive. Then, there’s the obvious benefit of the reviews continuing. Beyond that, I really hope for this patreon to become an inclusive experience that allows me to directly engage you and review what you want to see. I hope this campaign allows me to talk to you and provide the reviews that you want to see. Want for example more Vathak-reviews? Want me to power through and prioritize the Zeitgeist AP or the latest FGG mega-tome or the latest offerings by Kobold Press or Legendary Games? Just tell me and I’ll be able to provide just that. :)

 

Q: I’d like to offer significant support, but am not interested in this 3pp-synergy-suggestion – what are the alternatives?

A: My players are pretty savvy and efficient, so must modules I use are heavily modified when I run them – unless I playtest something, of course. This means I literally have a huge pile of notes for *a lot* of modules from all kinds of publishers – I could share these and enhance your own playing experience, helping you tailor the challenges to your group. If that does not tickle your fancy, just drop me a line and I’ll figure something out with you! And yes, monthly skype-calls, custom crunch – the like is all within the realm of possibility! Have I mentioned that I have expanded e.g. each PFS-scenario of season 0 into a full-blown, more detailed module and have serious experience in turning even the most sucky module into something captivating and awesome?

 

Q: What are you spending the donations on?

A: Electricity bills, rent, health insurance and after that, toner cartridges to print out the gaming books I review – those are my first priorities. Once those are paid, I’ll be saving for two general purposes: 1) Support a great KS or product. If a certain funding level is reached, I’d also start saving to buy a proper webcam for video-reviews. I’d ask for your permission before I use funds in this way, though. 2) Start long-term saving so I one day can afford the flight to the US and potentially meet some of you ladies and gentlemen at Gencon or Paizocon and roll ‘dem bones with you.

 

Q: Sucker, no way I’m going to pay for your reviews/I don’t pay for free stuff!

A: No offense taken. I understand that in this day and age, free services are taken for granted. I still hope you enjoy what you read and find my reviews helpful and maybe, one day reconsider.

 

Q: Have you tried advertisement?

A: Yes, I experimented with banners back in the day, but I considered them ineffective and worse, annoying. Plus, in the days of adblock, why annoy anyone with them in the first place? 😉

 

Q: Work for your money!

A: Just try to devote 4+ hours per day, for years on end, to reviewing, careful analysis and the like – reviewing eats up more time than my second job. Beyond the obvious value my reviews tend to have for authors and publishers to improve the products, I also have actually worked for quite a few publishers in consulting/development/author-functions and am open to just about all types of jobs in the industry. If you have a job offer, just drop me a line! :)

 

Q: How do you maintain your output?

A: I’m a fast reader, have an excellent, almost eidetic memory, am a fast writer and one of the guys who constantly need some input, something to occupy his brain and keep himself busy. That and my insomnia helps as well. ;D

 

Q: What about direct donations via paypal?

A: Indeed, I have received some generous donations over the years and I am exceedingly grateful for every one of them.  They tend to arrive at irregular and, in for me unpredictable intervals, though, and thus do not help me in establishing a sense of how much time I can afford to allot to reviewing. That being said, I am exceedingly grateful for any donation I receive!

 

Q: I’m one of the two generous souls who have created a monthly payment via paypal already and/or am one who regularly drops you a tip- should I change to patreon?

A: Please don’t – patreon takes an additional fee. I do count your pledge towards the total, though, should you opt for this option, in spite of it being slightly less convenient for you, and, of course, as you’re aware, I’ll be sure to take your preferences into account! Just drop me a line!

 

Q: Do you expect to make these milestones or receive those high-level backers?

A: Not really, to be honest – this is a long shot and every single buck is going to be something for me to truly cherish. However, one may dream, right? 😉

 

Q: So when exactly does your situation become dire?

A: This June, I’ll be out of my main job and looking for new means of making a living. Until then, things will be pretty much the way you’re accustomed to, though April and May will see an influx in me writing applications and hopefully, going to a bunch of job interviews.

 

Q: Do you expect this patreon to be enough to make a living?

A: No, I don’t –  but I do hope it will provide a supplemental income that allows me to not work another mind-crushing menial job when I’d rather be providing reviews for you and yours!

 

Q: What if this patreon fails miserably?

A: For the immediate future, not much will happen. I will be sad, of course, but not angry or disappointed: I do not have a sense of entitlement and am fully aware of this being a long shot. Eventually this summer, though, just staying alive and earning a basic living via menial jobs may prevent me from providing as many reviews as you’re accustomed to. If this patreon sees no or very little support, I’ll have to rearrange my priorities accordingly, as much as I genuinely love what I’m doing. I will honor all files sent to me eventually and provide the reviews for them, but at a decreased rate. Depending on how looking for jobs goes and how my schedule changes, I may be forced to stop reviewing altogether. I will be sure to keep you and all the 3pps in the loop and give all of you a heads-up, no matter how this whole thing turns out!

 

Q: What if this patreon is a smashing success?

A: Well, first of all, I’ll be grinning constantly for weeks. Secondly, I’d be stunned and humbled and grateful – and I’d be working like no-one’s business with you to further improve the whole experience for you and provide more in return.

 

Q: Are there other benefits if you receive enough funding?

A: If the campaign is a sufficient success, I’ll raise the standard of my reviews from unpaid-hobby to semi-professional/professional, respectively. This means I’ll actually check for those annoying typos, raise the standard of my writing, etc. – we’ll work together to determine your priorities!

 

Q: What if you get a well-paid job?

A: I will continue to honor my patreon obligations. Should any conflicts arise, I’ll immediately let you know.  I also will significantly upgrade the benefits you receive – I’m not a greedy man and I’d love to give back to the community.

 

Q: I want to be credited for my support!

A: No problem! Supporters may add my logo with a “Proud sponsor/patron of…” to their site and if you want me to, I’ll list you as sponsors on my page! Just tell me to and I’ll set it up!

 

Q: You don’t have a pledge-level that appeals to me!

A: Just drop me a line and I’ll figure one out/modify the campaign to suit your needs!

 

Q: Can I help?

A: Yes! Even if you can’t act as a patreon, I’d very much appreciate it if you share the news, point people towards my site and my patreon and spread the word.

 

Q: I have a suggestion on how to improve your patreon!

A: You do? Awesome! Just tell me and I’ll see what I can do. :)

 

Thank you for reading this and considering my patreon! As Captain Planet once said: The power is yours!

Have a great week-end!

Endzeitgeist out!

Apr 242015
 

Cyclopean Deeps Vol. I

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The first book of the two-part Cyclopean Deeps-Saga clocks in at 198 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 192 pages of content, so let’s check this out, shall we?

 

So, let’s, for now, process as spoiler-free as possible: Do you remember the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide released for 2nd edition (1e AD&D, if you count that way…)? It’s a timeless classic indeed and showcases a significant component of what I consider flawed with most modern underdark/underworld modules. Let me describe it from this venue – have you ever been spelunking? There is an appeal to the hobby that is hard to describe, but I’ll try – at the same time, you feel like you have entered a new world, a place where your civilization and all of its comforts do not stretch to. You enter a place wondrous that differs significantly, via all of your senses, from the tactile to the olfactory, from what we are used to – reaching the surface once again can feel a bit like a shock after some time – loud, bright…all those smells. However, accompanying this general sensation, one is (or at least I am!) constantly and keenly aware of insane amounts of solid rock, balancing precariously above one’s head – whether as a sense of foreboding or respect, caves and caverns elicit a different perspective. Now, recently AAW Games has captured the proper sense of wonder rather perfectly with their Rise of the Drow saga.

 

In Rise of the Drow, we saw an unprecedented sense of realism applied to the section of the underdark that is kind of akin to the surface world, if not in environment, then in its social structures – we have dangerous animals, humanoid cultures (most evil) vying for dominance – it’s the surface world on crack and the RotD-saga can be counted among the few that managed to instill this sense of wonder in the vivid pictures painted. However, there is another underdark – a place where neither light, nor surface-dwellers usually tread. If you’re familiar with the Dark Souls games, think of this as the place that would have come below the lowest, blackest gulch. A place, where even the underworld-denizens fear to tread, a place forlorn and forsaken by the light. Below even Rappan Athuk, thus extends this place, one that can easily be transplanted to any setting – courtesy of there simply being no comparable supplement or module that goes quite that deep – usually, places like this are hinted at in the equivalent of telling the PCs “Don’t go there!” So there the fools go – here dwell the things no man has ever laid eyes on, here is the Deep Horizon, here are the Cyclopean Deeps.

 

If the hex-sporting map is not ample clue – this constitutes a sandbox in the truest sense – that is, this a player-driven, old-school module with ample sample random encounters. Also: Know how old-school sometimes is used as a buzzword? Well, not so here. Indeed, this place is defiantly old-school and LETHAL. Even when compared to Rappan Athuk, the Cyclopean Deeps are deadly – very deadly. So yeah, if your group is looking for a challenge, a module worth winning – this is what you want. How nasty can this place be? Brutal enough to actually require no work on my part to make the module more challenging.

Want an example? All right, but to provide you with one, I’ll have to go into SPOILERS. Players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Still here? All right! If you were one of the lucky ones, Rappan Athuk’s KS back in the day provided two teasers of this massive module – and one detailed Ques Querax, gateway to the Cyclopean Deeps, wherein strange minotaur golems guard the premises. The local temple sports 3 priests, always in the same position, unmoving, catering to the whims of a strange head – only if you resist the unearthly fear of this place do you receive healing – but you never actually see it cast – upon leaving the temple, the effects suddenly…happen. Curiosity, alas, much like in CoC, may kill the cat, though – and like in the old truism, turn it into a multidimensional horror with puckered tentacles that is coming right for YOU! (Yes, actually trying to find out *how* these guys cast spells may shatter your sanity and provide a neat new career choice as a terrible servant of the mythos. A tavern owned by a denizen of Leng, an intelligent giant slug slaver, a dog-headed perfume-creating alchemist – not only are plenty of these folk EVIL, they also are WEIRD in a rather uncanny, horrific way. And the interesting thing is – this is civilization in these parts. It literally does not become better than this, so the PCs better figure out means of making this place work for them – a dangerous, but moderately secure base is better than none! Have I btw. mentioned the living eye of Gaaros-Uaazath, arguably one of the most powerful and odd entities herein, secretly creating a mind-bending, centipede-like war-machine?

 

But beyond the gates of Ques Querax, beautiful and precious wonders await – finding e.g. gems worth thousands of gold may be a reason for joy – until you read the entry of said random treasure – it reads “kidney stone.” I am not kidding. The book *brims* with these little tidbits – and each and every one is tailor-made to come together in a vista exceedingly tantalizing and disturbing. From chain-bound jack-in-irons giants to mists of concealing, detection-blocking darkmist and the dark stalker/creeper enclave of Izanne, there are politics to be found, and yes, civilization – however, each veneer is distorted and odd, a threat underlying just about every step, every interaction – while never losing the evoked, profound sense of wonder that oozes from each and every encounter – and yes, some purists may scoff at decisions to smack down truly wondrous effects that lie beyond the capacity of spells here and there – but as for me, I love this decision – it drives home the need for care, the sense of magic…well, being truly magical. What level of detail am I referring to? well, what about a whole array of options, should the PCs elect to run across the rooftops of the fully-mapped Izanne? Or perhaps the PC’s friendly nigh-ghoul guide wants to sell them some slaves and palanquins from his third cousin – the resounding themes of civilization can be found herein, though they are twisted in a grotesque way – a fact that also is reflected by the copious missions provided – and in the messages, that partially are traps, partially are odd – but ultimately, are different. Unique aberrations and strange folk abound, demons trod the streets and even here, a sense of decrepitude, of civilizations most vile, fallen to magics even worse, suffuses the paragraphs, with details upon details drawing a picture of a world that could be another, a place so wildly different, yet familiar, that it could be considered an escalation of the concept of the uncanny.

 

What about spellbooks that have been folded into the fourth dimension, pods that may transmit memories, odd, singing crystals – there is a lot of wonderful, enigmatic stuff to be found; and if your players prefer making an impact, the nasty and inscrutable people, from serpentfolk to aboleths, are all actually playing their own games, with subquests, goals and the like handily organized for your convenience. Now if you’re not familiar with some old-school rules, you might be surprised to see e.g. a reference to percentile rolls and chances to decipher a lost language – this is a remnant of old-school gaming and should have been updated to PFRPG using the Linguistics-skill. And yes, some remnants like this can be found herein. However, in which other supplement are the players tasked (on an optional basis, of course!) to awaken a death god? Eat energy-bars of strange fungus or find out that the nice magic items they found are powered by energy infusions generated by constant sacrifice of sentient beings? It should also be noted that the NPC-builds, while sporting some straightforward ones, also feature some more complex ones.

 

But honestly, I don’t love this book for its mechanics – but where else can you find human-faced, giant ants, unearthly flowers and air, spatial distortions and ways of thinking (properly explained for the DM) that may seem starkly in contrast to our logic…and have I mentioned the importance of the Leng rubies?

 

Now if the nomenclature and overall array of options seemed confusing to you, a massive glossary should help. The new monsters herein are copious and weird, as are the short, fluff-only write-ups of the elder things. The appendices also contain the numerous unique items – though, much like in the crunch, there are some examples of old-school mechanics to be found herein – e.g. an artifact that requires you to roll multiple d6s and score below your attribute score. The pdf contains various, cool maps, all of which receive player-friendly versions – and there are hand-outs.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to FGG’s printer-friendly, two-column b/w-standard and the module comes with A LOT of awesome, unique original b/w-art. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography in b/w is neat.

 

Author Matthew J. Finch delivers quite frankly one of the most imaginative, awesome books in the whole Frog God/Necromancer Games-canon; much like the stellar Dunes of Desolation, this book constitutes a prime example of why I want to see as many new FGG modules as possible. I own all Necromancer Games modules, even the boxed sets, and yes, even the rarities. That being said, I do think that FGG’s modules surpass those of NG. Cyclopean Deeps Volume I is such a monument – this book reached a level of imaginative detail, of sheer creativity, that one only finds perhaps once in a blue moon. The literally only comparisons I could draw in that regard would be to the best of FGG-modules or to the 4 Dollar Dungeons-modules by Richard Develyn – and you probably by now realize how much I adore them. That being said, this book is far from perfect; the remnants of the conversion not being carried out properly in all cases do stick out like sore thumbs to me and formally, constitute a blemish that you should be aware of.

 

Then again, this massive book is intended for experienced DMs and experienced groups – beyond the lethality of the module, the sheer amount of sandboxing, of entwined things going on, means that A DM has to have some experience under the belt to run this. But know what? The complexity doesn’t faze me and neither do the conversion relics matter to me – for one, in some cases, one could chalk them up to mechanics simply working differently here as well. On the other, capable DMs can easily fix these minor problems. And none of those minor hiccups matter to me in this case – what would singularly break the neck of lesser books just falls under the rag here – the writing is THIS good. Beyond a level of detail that can only be described as excruciating, there simply is no other module, no other environmental supplement tackling anything like this; the only other underworld sandboxes that approach this in terms of complexity would be the second Act of RotD or the classic Open Design “Empire of Ghouls” and both have a wildly different focus, completely different themes.

 

This manages to elicit a sense of cultural wonder akin to the writings of the classic titans like Gygax, a breath of the magical and uncanny, while also breathing the spirit of the mythos and classic pulp fiction akin to Howard or Haggard. Cyclopean Deeps managed to evoke something I almost never feel anymore these days – a sense of jamais-vu. This is not yet another rendition of some tired old, much rehearsed tropes – this is the antithesis of exceedingly tired level 1 module with goblins and an ogre or shadow as the final boss. This massive tome breathes more unique ideas in a chapter than some whole series of books. Even when compared to Rappan Athuk et al., this tome dabbles in themes and topics far beyond the focus on demonic entities, creates a sense of wonder and, paradoxically, realism. As odd and alien the vistas portrayed herein are, they still feel uncannily organic, realistic and alive – which drives further home the point of this book being not only unique, but inspired in the very best way.

 

The formal hiccups here and there might annoy you, but if you are missing out on this monumentally inspired world/setting-building due to them, you are depriving yourself of perhaps one of the most captivating reads I’ve had in any iteration of a d20-based system. And if you don’t mind some old-school remnants or perhaps even enjoy them, then this should be considered a true milestone. I’ve been struggling with myself for quite a long time on how to rate this book, but as far as I’m concerned, the vast imaginative potential this book offers trumps just about any minor blemish or criticism you could field against it; to the point, where complaining would seem disingenuous and downright petty-minded. There are few books of this size that have managed to captivate me to this extent during the whole lecture of them and this massive sandbox should be considered a must-have addition to any DM looking for the deep below – even as disparate encounters and for the purposes of scavenging elements, this book is well worth the asking price. I thus remain with a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, a nomination for the Top Ten of 2014, a longing for Vol. 2 and the regret that I am too poor to get this glorious tome in print.

 

You can get this awesome book here on OBS or here on d20pfsrd-com’s shop!

 

Prefer the S&W-old-school version? That one can be found here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Want to get this and its sequel for a reduced price? The current KS by FGG offers just that – I know I’d buy them and Dunes in a heartbeat as add-ons if I could afford it! Here’s the link!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 242015
 

Demon Cults: The Emerald Order

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This installment of Kobold Press’ Demon Cults-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

“A Demon Cult? Urgh.” If that was your response, then you’re pretty much like me and over-saturated by bland “doing it for evil’s sake”-idiot-plot-device adversaries. Thankfully, Kobold Press seems to have taken up the mantle to make secret societies and organizations no longer suck and actually have a distinct identity – at least that’s the goal. So can the Emerald Order fulfill it?

 

Well, for once, the Emerald Order is not actually a Demon Cult – worshiping Thoth-Hermes and having deciphered the secrets within the Emerald Tablets, the members have managed to attain increased magical prowess – alas, as per the truism, power corrupts and the Emerald Order, in the time-honored tradition of secret societies, is exerting significant influence of the bodies politic in the realms wherein they have established themselves. Guided in that endeavor are they by their fully statted CR 15 sample character, the middle-aged master of the order, who sports no less than all ten levels of the new PrC, but more on that soon. The statblock is nice to see, though AC the non-flat-footed AC seems to be off by 1 point – now the statblock itself remains functional for the DM and hence, I won’t complain too much about such minor hiccups.

 

The PrC covers 10 levels and is called Disciple of Emerald Esoterica. It requires 2nd level spellcasting and 3 ranks in some skills for relative early access, making the fluffy requirement of acknowledgment by the order to most important component. Formally, the PrC nets d6, 6+Int skills, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 will-save progression and full spellcasting progression. The abilities themselves, sporting colorful names like “Key of Wisdom” and the like, deserve special mention -aforementioned first ability allows for the stacking with cleric levels for ability purposes or skill bonuses to wis-based skills that increase based on ranks akin to lesser skill focus-style benefits. Similar benefits are provided for arcane casters and oracles at higher levels (the latter working out surprisingly well re balancing builds) and beyond that, each level nets some sort of limited spell-like abilities than scale in their daily uses per day. Resistances can also be found herein among the abilities granted and disciples may, at higher levels, act in surprise rounds and later even learn e.g. final revelations, bloodline abilities et al. or, yes, grand discoveries. A basic glance will show you that this renders them accessible much sooner, which means that yes, imho you should keep this PrC out of player-hands…UNLESS you actually want them to enjoy those apex-level tricks for longer. It should also be noted that the order learns to chip away emeralds from the artifact-level tablets (which get a full write-up) to make a DR-granting ioun stone and that over all, its rules-language is pretty precise. Several SP-granting abilities sport a duality-theme, which is nice, but doesn’t really mitigate the fact that these aren’t as cool as e.g. the forewarned ability versus surprise rounds mentioned before – I would have loved some more esoteric abilities here – ironic, considering the focus of the order. And yes, the PrC, generally, can be considered rather solid.

 

Furthermore, disciples may create the Smaragdine golems, unerring trackers and magic absorbing sentinels – that, much like aforementioned leader, receive a glorious, high-standard visual representation in a beautiful piece of artwork. Where the pdf truly fills its role, though, would imho be in its numerous adventure suggestions involving the order, all grouped handily by APL – these range from kingdom-destabilization to polymorphing afflictions and should drive home rather well the diverse methods employed by this cabal. I loved this section and each, but one of the hooks has its first sentence bolded, thus allowing you to take in the premise of the hook at a glance! Fans of Midgard should also be aware that there is indeed a box helping you use the order within the context of said world.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches apart from one unimportant bolding missing among the hooks. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press’ beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover. The original pieces of artwork are drop-dead gorgeous. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Jeff Lee’s Emerald Order is a surprising first choice for a Demon Cult in that is feels more like an esoteric order as popularized by the pulp novels – the pdf manages to quote he themes of implied supremacy, of strange orders offering powers beyond the ken of the uninitiated and thus creates an organization that can be considered interesting indeed. Now while I’d be rather careful about allowing PCs to take the PrC herein, the added edge my provide interesting mechanics and while not suitable for every campaign, I can see an order PC working in some campaigns – rather well, actually!

 

Now this installment may not be perfect, but it is a more interesting book than I imagined – while I’d expect fame/reputation mechanics for cults and organizations intended for player use, as a mostly NPC-focused order that could potentially double as a player-expansion, I will not hold this omission against the pdf. I would have liked somewhat more detailed information on suggested resources at the order’s command, on how they handle threats and the policies of the cabal, but that is my personal preference – there are a lot of ways to run such conspiracies and while a general inkling of the like is provided, the non-alignment-specific nature of the order (though they are strongly geared towards evil, the PrC is not…knowledge itself is neutral…) means that here, a bunch of cool choices and options at their behest could have been highlighted – don’t get me wrong – this stuff is hinted at and generally covered, yes – I just wished the pdf was slightly more concrete and the same goes for the means of advancement within the order’s hierarchy This is me nagging, though. The Emerald Order is a cool organization, one that oozes the spirit of pulp and classic weird fiction and for the low asking price, you receive a nice organization to throw into your games.

 

When all is said and done, this can be considered a good first installment of the series and one that makes me look forward to the other installments, which I will cover as well…and rather soon! My final verdict for this one will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform since it over all feels to me like it could have gotten slightly more out of the order’s awesome visuals and style.

 

You can get this cool organization here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 232015
 

B04 – The Cave Beast’s Hoard (Revised Edition)

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This revised edition of the B04 module clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

There is something you’ll note from the get-go – you wouldn’t know this module for what it once was. From a cleared layout to copious new artwork and maps, the production values have increased by a huge step, bringing this up to par with AAW Games’ new standard. The font-size is also pretty small, making the module longer than one would think from the page-count. That out of the way, let’s get to the meat of this revision.

 

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

..

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Still here?

All right! First of all, the town of Woodwall is fully depicted, with settlement stats et al. – which may be nice…it becomes even cooler once you realize the town’s unique fey-themed defenses and its unique magical fountain – indeed, there is quite a bit of research to be done in town (what about a sample legend?) and the overland map also helps vividly picture the environment. A quick investigation should point the PCs quickly towards an ominous “cave beast”, which may or may not be a beast or a couple of people, who has been picking off people – one by one. Curious and sharp-witted players may realize here, that there is a theme connecting the disappearances…

 

The PCs are on a scavenger hunt here, checking mines, old forests and seas for clues of what has happened – and indeed, each place yields new hints and red herrings – and unique challenges with e.g. a nasty Gathlain sorceror – each of the places contains a piece of the puzzle, each place has become the doom of one fleeing apprentice of a particular, long-gone wizard – once these have been cleared out, only a fully mapped keep remains, wherein the PCs will have to brave a kobold infestation to fin the true nature of the cave beast – and no, they may believe the kobolds alone to be responsible, but a close examination of the treasure hoard will quickly disprove this thesis. And then, there is the final confrontation, with the animated golem, all made from the treasure of the long-dead wizard – and here is, where the module becomes awesome. The massive creature is exceedingly deadly – but throughout the module, the PCs could find ways to even the field – each apprentice has left them one way of making the fight easier and careful investigation in the beginning of the module can also provide means of making this challenging, cool puzzle-boss-fight more manageable.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to AAW Games’ two-column full-color standard, including gorgeous maps (with player-friendly versions!), copious amount of original artwork and full bookmarks for your convenience.

 

This happens when a company of dedicated individuals CARES. This old module, a blemish, has been changed to an extent, where you wouldn’t believe that this and its predecessor are even related – the writing has vastly improved and Mike Myler has brought his A-game to the table not only the town, but the whole flow of the module much, much more impressive – and especially the way in which the furious finale has been upgraded to actually reward the actions of the PCs! This module rewards sharp players, provides diverse challenges and took Jacob Kellogg’s least refined module and turned it into something beautiful. Add to that the massively increased production values and we have a classic example of “From Zero to Hero” – as provided, this revision is fun, diverse and offers multiple challenges for the PCs to face. I *really* love what has been done here, I applaud this level of commitment and I gladly award this revision 5 stars + seal of approval, rendering it a worthy addition to the canon of AAW Games-modules.

 

You can get this vastly-improved, new version of the module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Apr 232015
 

Path of Villains

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The second book in Legendary Games’ Mythic Paths-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of how-to-use/introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let us take a look, shall we?

 

So, a good villain – every DM knows that the opposition is just as important as the heroes – and personally, my love for them can probably be attributed to reading too many great stories as a child: Batman is cool, but the Joker? He’s just awesome. Superman? Nice, but Lex Luthor is damn impressive as well…what’s Spidey sans Venom or Doc Oc? Yeah, so what we have here would be a handy assortment of guidelines for DMs to help ensure that their villains are just like that – memorable.

 

Now unlike what you’d expect, we essentially get a so-called villain path – which is essentially a virtual path that can just be used to supplement the usual path of your villains – i.e., yes, any mythic villain can scavenge these, even if s/he/it already has the Dual Path ability. However, it *is*treated as a path for the purposes of path-modifying feats. Got that? Now here’s the cincher – there is a different suggested table for villains with mythic tiers and one for villains with mythic ranks -and yes, handily internally linked lists of abilities by tier are provided – one click and the pdf jumps to the ability – extremely comfortable to use! As a note for designers – while it’s not as important for homebrew DMs (though they’ll appreciate it) – each ability also sports the place and format for the statblock! Nice, since it maintains consistency!

 

Know those times when you are tempted to fudge the dice? When a player’s lucky crit kills off your BBEG when it shouldn’t? Well, what about reflexive revival? Not enough? What about returning from the grave a day after being slain? Yes, these are damn cool abilities! Not enough? What about revival as a vampire, revenant or similar, dead and nasty creature? Reflexive fast healing, mythic power-theft, storing mythic power in backup simulacra or clones… oh yeah. What about a deal that may see outsiders coming to claim the soul after the villain’s demise? Or perhaps, your villain can talk to the living even after death, instructing them with the details required for his glorious return?

 

Using mythic power to make superb escapes (including drinking potions and temporary mobility-enhancing feats) and to negate damage are also great to ensure your villain survives a defeat – but ignoring abilities that would prevent an AOO will make your players hate them. Glorious! In cool synergy with mythic monsters, gaining a crowflight carriage is pretty neat! Being impervious to non-mythic, otherwise defense-bypassing tricks is also something neat – just gloat into that paladin’s face as his smite evil poofs harmlessly against his defenses. Want to a reincarnation of an ancient evil? You can! Or perhaps, your villains need an additional trick to get rid of debuffs à la bleed, confused, etc. – what about a mythic power-based counterspell that also works with abilities which allow the villain to negate certain things? Yeah, pretty much awesome.

 

Also absolutely awesome – utterly breaking the mind of captives, turning them into your slaves, beholden as per the vow of obedience feat – the concise, easy mechanics for this help what can be considered massive, diamond-studded, narrative gold. Speaking of which – if the PCs are foolish enough to tackle a villain with “Triumph of the Will” by outnumbering him, they’ll quickly notice that his annoying trick to reroll and force rerolls just got even worse – nice rationale for “I have to do this alone!” Oh yeah, capstone villains can reduce even those immune to fear to cowering heaps.. Have I mentioned the option to counter the expenditure of mythic power, best graced with a “Two can play this game!”, “Denied!”, “Your tricks can’t stop me!” or similar phrase. Glorious!

 

Speaking of which – what about receiving 1 + 1/2 tier swift/immediate actions per round? In the hands of the right class, this ability alone may help one villain stand against a significant majority of foes…Love it!

 

And if the villain one day has to die – what about dishing out a massive hereditary curse? And yes, that one can imho also spawn campaigns!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with various nice pieces of full-color art, though Legendary Games-fans will know them from previous offerings. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and has handy internal links for maximum comfort in navigation.

 

All right, let’s face it – PFRPG is geared more towards dishing out damage, less so taking it – defenses and staying alive are harder than dealing obscene amounts of damage, an issue exacerbated by the numerical escalation that is part of the mythic rules. This pdf is the answer (or at least one possible answer!) – with a huge array of awesome, flavorful abilities that increase the villain’s staying power, help keeping the BBEG alive and even provide Plan Bs when he’s slain, this pdf, as a toolkit, is not only useful for mythic games, but also for regular ones – though in either case, I wholeheartedly enjoyed the diversity and vast power of the respective tricks herein. While I’d generally wouldn’t recommend putting this into player-hands due to a plethora of extremely powerful tricks made to offset the odds between party vs. one guy + henchmen, there is one example, where I would not want to miss this – WotW #6, endgame. Negate the “limiter” introduced by the story and let the PCs with their contingencies duke it out -no harm done: If they die, after all, they can always come back…

 

In one word – this pdf offers the favorite tricks of all our fiction and comic book villains – superb escape stunts, powerful options to fight another day, superb planning and yes, even heel-turning good allies of PCS…this is THE mythic villain’s toolbox and should be considered a must-get purchase for any DM running a mythic game – your carefully crafted adversaries will last longer and garner more loathing, more influence, more power with the tools herein. I love this book and as such, I will rate it 5 stars +seal of approval – congrats to Jason Nelson and Clinton J. Boomer! Note, however, that I do NOT consider it a good idea to hand this over to player hands unless in very specific circumstances – these options are exceedingly powerful and made for the DM to cackle with glee.

 

You can get this awesome kit of villain tricks here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 232015
 

Underworld Classes – Gemcaster

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This installment of the Underworld Classes-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what is the gemcaster? The simple answer would be “a metamagic specialist”, but that would be reductive, so let’s first take a look at the proper hard stats. gemcasters are a 10-level PrC that require two skills at 8 ranks plus any three metamagic feats as entry-requirements. They receive d6, 2+Int skills per level, 1/2 will-save progression, 1/2 BAB-progression and 7/10 spellcasting progression – from the looks of it, a full caster PrC with some additional tricks to justify the spellcasting-dead-levels.

 

At 1st level, the class receives a bonus to Appraise, Craft and Diplomacy equal to the PrC-level as well as the so-called gem transformation. By concentrating for 10 minutes, a gemcaster may transform one or more cut gems into one or more cut gems of a different type, provided the value remains the same. This transformation is taxing, though, dealing 2 points of temporary constitution damage which heal at the rate of 1 point per hour. When using the ability while fatigued, the gemcaster instead becomes exhausted. Alas, the pdf fails to specify whether the fatigued condition also ends with the regeneration of the Constitution damage.

 

Gemcasters also may use gem magic, learning new types of gem magic over the levels. Unless otherwise stated, a gem magic ability can be used 3/day and these may not be used in conjunction with rods of metamagic.

 

So what exactly does this do? Well, at 2nd level, the gemcaster chooses one metamagic feat that usually increases a spell level by +1. By using a peridot of a value of 100 gp x spell level, the gemcaster may emulate the chosen metamagic feat without modifying the spell level or the slot. (But it *does* still influence casting time, if applicable!) At 3rd level and 4th level, further feats can be emulated, each tied to a particular gem. At 5th level, a metamagic feat that increases spell-level by +2 can be emulated via gem magic, with a cost equal to 300 gp x spell level. At 6th level, another such feat can be emulated. At 7th level, the gemcaster can choose to emulate a feat with a spell-level-increase of +3 for 500 gp x spell level. Another such metamagic feat can be emulated at 8th level. At 9th level, a metamagic feat with a spell-level increase of +4 can be emulated by expending 700 gp x spell level. Now on the nitpicky side, while the wording is okay, it could have been a tad bit clearer whether the unmodified spell-level or the spell-level modified by the metamagic feat constitutes the baseline for the price – it’s the former, btw.

 

Now I like things about this base mechanic and I dislike components. I do like the freedom of gemcasters to assign gem-types to metamagic feats they own, thus codifying their own magic and the ability to slowly, but steadily prepare their gem-components, rewarding proper planning on the PC’s part. However, I do not like the economy of the gemcasting per se. If you take most metamagic rods, we quickly realize that gemcasting is a tad more flexible, with no daily cap for free metamagic application in contrast to metamagic rods. Metamagic rods are significantly more expensive first, but the constant costs of gemcasting will quickly catch up to the price of even greater metamagic rods. Now e.g. the elemental rods would require one for each element, whereas the gemcaster can cover that via one ability – here, it pays to be a gemcaster. Ultimately, the gemcaster becomes only a valid option in such cases and when the class casts *A LOT* of metamagic spells, who don’t want their rods sundered all the time. If multiple metamagic rods would break the bank, this class becomes valid. While gemcasting cannot be used in conjunction with a rod of metamagic, it can still be used with regular metamagic. I am quite frankly not sold on this rather circumstantial flexibility really is worth 3 spellcasting-progression-less levels for most of the time – remember, each of the gemcasting tricks can only be used 3/day, akin to a metamagic rod…

 

And then, there’s the capstone – at 10th level, the gemcaster can utilize two gem magic abilities at once, adding a x 1.5 modifier to the total price. The restriction remains that the total spell level modified cannot exceed +4. Alternatively, the class now can execute a metamagic-feat not chosen by this class at the appropriate cost as if the gemcaster had learned it via gemcasting. The big question here, though, would be whether metamagic feats gained via regular level-progression during the levels of this PrC count as part of the PrC or not – the wording here could be a tad bit more concise.

 

The final 4 pages of the pdf are devoted to a short racial write-up for the svirfneblin race of Aventyr – which thankfully do not seem to utilize the rather OP racial stats of the default svirfneblin and receive +4 to Craft (any one), Knowledge (engineering) and +2 to one Profession. They do, however, receive a -4 penalty to Bluff, intimidate and Handle Animal checks. The write-up per se was my favorite part of this book – it’s interesting and a fascinating look at the race.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though some of the abilities could have been a bit more concise in their explanation/presentation, but that is a minor issue. Layout adheres to AAW Games’ beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports *A LOT* of gorgeous full color art. The pdf also comes with rudimentary bookmarks – enough to work okay, I guess.

 

Okay, I’ll be frank with you – I do not like this class. At all. I like the gem-transformation, the assignment of metamagic to the gems and I can appreciate the math that went into the pricing of abilities vs. metamagic rods. I did enjoy the fluff for the svirfneblin race. I just don’t consider metamagic a particularly compelling sub-rules-set. It is somewhat clunky, especially when introducing metamagic rods. Don’t believe me? Just search for them and related threads on the boards. Yeah. Now the gemcaster had the chance to codify a special kind of more efficient metamagic that got rid of the issues with rods, but, at least in my opinion, squandered that chance. Instead, the class essentially provides built-in metamagic rods, potentially adding rather than detracting from the complexity of the rules – and for once, I do not mean that in a positive way.

 

Another issue would be that the class could have fixed the crippled action-economy that spontaneous casters suffer from when using metamagic – while usually, gem magic requires a standard action/is subsumed in the casting duration of the spell, the spontaneous casters still have to deal with the increased action-tax metamagic provides. The pdf also does not really address the potential of combination with heightened spells, leaving me at once excited about the imagery of the class and somewhat disappointed by its content.

 

Okay, I may very well be too harsh here, but for me, this PrC did nothing that excited me. You get built-in metamagic rods and lose 3 levels of spellcasting progression for them. Yay? I’m sorry and I feel like an utter prick, for the pdf obviously had work put into it and the production values generally are good. But the pdf neither fixed/improved metamagic flexibility, nor provides a significant flexibility gain/ gain of new abilities. The decreased costs quickly peter out (unless you have a pretty quick wealth/level-progression), thus also rendering the economy-factor less of a selling point.

 

There is nothing wrong with this class. If you want a slightly different reskin of the idea of metamagic rods, the class might strike a chord with you. I did show this to my players, feeling like I perhaps just had it in for the concept, but their reactions were pretty much like mine – a shrug.

 

The execution of the rules is pretty solid (though not perfect), so if you are looking for such a reskin, this may be awesome for you. For me, though, this was bland and boring. Try as I might, I just couldn’t bring myself to be excited about any component of this class. It just left me utterly unimpressed and, especially when compared to most of the high-concept Underworld Classes, this one falls woefully flat. I wanted to rate this higher, for there isn’t much to complain about mechanically…but that would have felt disingenuous to you, dear readers. After all, when something incites my passion, I try to convey that to you – and from the feedback I receive, I know that my tastes seem to be shared by a significant bunch of fine people. Thus, I couldn’t justify going review-robot on this one. As mentioned, if you like the idea, go for it. But for me, both as a reviewer and as a person, this is a 2.5-star-file, barely salvaged to that level by the nice racial fluff. If the concepts detailed in this review interest you, you should round up instead.

 

You can get this weakest part of the series here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.