Dec 152017

Yuletide Terror

This massive Christmas mega-adventure clocks in at 119 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 6 pages of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 107 pages of content, making this the single largest Christmas module I have ever read and played.


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


Before we dive into the main meat, let us talk about a couple of peculiarities: One: The layout in full-color is gorgeous and sports a ribbon on the right side of the page, which denotes the act/part of the adventure you’re currently in. This makes navigation more convenient, so that would be one plus. Another plus would be that we get a total of 4 pages of player-friendly maps for the battle/exploration-relevant sections, all in full-color – big kudos for their inclusion. It should also be noted that the adventure makes use of the PHENOMENAL skill challenge rules provided in the Skill Challenge Handbook.


You don’t have perhaps the single most important crunch-book I know, the thing that should be CORE? Well…you should get it. But even if you don’t, you won’t need it to run this adventure. Skill Challenges are easy enough to grasp so you won’t be puzzled by their inclusion. The appendix also explains the system, so you can run it easily. It should btw. also be noted that two new, nice occult rituals can be found herein, though I’ll comment on these when they become relevant.


It should also be noted that the adventure is set in the picturesque town of Hollyglen, which not only comes fully mapped and with proper settlement stats, but which features its own little summary in the appendix.


All right, and this is as far as I can go without going DEEP into SPOILER Territory. Only naughty folks would peek now, right? From here on out, only folks intending to GM the module should read on.



All righty, only GMs around? Great! So, the adventure very much is cognizant of various tropes associated with Krampus and Kringle – within the context of this adventure, Krampus is nothing short of a demi-god, one nasty fellow who was eventually vanquished by none other than Nicholas Krindl, fabled mortal herald of Odin. The Yuletide celebration is hence the commemoration of this epic victory. The PCs have arrived in the sleepy and picturesque town of Hollyglen, where they meet Melilion Parinda, local wizard, who, in the tradition of clueless folks in any dimension, is currently doing some hasty last-minute shopping. She invites the PCs to stay at her place, as a blizzard is approaching and all rooms at inns etc. are occupied. There is just one condition: The PCs should chaperone her son and his friends, while the adults attend a fancy gala. Thing is, her son Wesley is 13. (As an aside: The mansion is provided with detailed, nice full-color maps – as noted before, including a player-friendly version.) Beyond room descriptions, the respective events also come with proper read-aloud text, making the adventure, as a whole, really friendly towards GMs that are less confident in improvising captivating prose.


Yeah, he reacts as positive to babysitters as you’d expect. The young man and his friends do as I would have done in that age: He seeks to prank the PCs and make their life miserable. As an apprentice to the sorcerous arts, and with fellow kids that are similarly not ordinary, the PCs will have their hands full in a massive multi-phase skill-challenge. Now here’s the thing: The kids rank among the most well-rounded kid characters I have seen in pretty much any roleplaying game supplement: There are multiple reasons for that: For one, the kids come with full intrigue-style write-ups for social influences – and succeeding in gaining the trust of the kids will provide tangible benefits for the PCs during the adventure. This whole section only works because, well, the kids are proper characters, not annoying cardboard cutouts; the PCs may very well want to befriend them. (As an aside: If the full, social write-ups don’t suffice: The kids come with full-blown NPC-write-ups and detailed stories in the appendix. The adventure really goes above and beyond here.)


Now, know how I mentioned an occult ritual? Wesley tries to cast whisk away on the evening winds, one ritual, to send the PCs to the gala, embarrassing them and gaining a bit of independence. Alas, he makes a crucial mistake: The ritual’s second page is missing, and so he ends up casting a bastardized version of the ritual, using summon the bonded soul as the second half. The results are unexpected. You see, a certain demi-god like entity was *just* in the process of rekindling his divine power. The ritual interrupted that and ended up calling KRAMPUS. Yeah, the CR 21 Krampus. He is NOT amused.


Krampus walks all over the kids and PCs. He doesn’t kill anyone, but he will defeat them. Soundly. Wesley does have a wish that Krampus owes him…and so the entity tricks Wesley – he spares the kids and PCs, but banishes them to the Krampus Night demiplane, ripped from Krindl when he stole his legendary Crook! Oh, and guess what? Not only did Krampus effortlessly best the PCs. He also has the power of regression – he transforms the PCs into kids! (Here, you can make great use of Childhood Adventures – though, once again, the module has all relevant stats and rules for kid-PCs!)


Turned into children, the PCs and their wards find themselves in the nightmare manor, a horrid reflection of the Parinda manor (separate maps provided). In case you’re wondering: Yes, we get full-blown planar traits! Oh, and the challenges within the manor? They are really, REALLY amazing: Toy slags. A woodgolem made from toys…speaking of which: If the PCs have been good to the kids, they will help the kiddyfied PCs. Cool: The “request aid from kids”-component of the manor’s explanation actually sports proper rules! There are haunts that seek to enforce a polymorph via ribbons, clothes, etc. What about pied piping presents that may lead towards the hungry gullets of mimics? There are trompe l’oeils and redcap carolers (including a delightfully twisted variant of Deck the Halls…)…and the PCs may manage to find one of Krindl’s gnomes, who can fill them in on some particulars: The PCs will need to get the crook from Krampus – without it, the entity makes all the rules here…


At one point during the exploration, the PCs will have caused enough ruckus to attract Rethspalton, the mighty rodent king – and he is preparing a siege! The PCs won’t have long, but they will have some time…and this is perhaps one of the definite highlights in the module. Preparing for the siege is amazing: Fortifying doors, making traps – it’s AMAZING and one of the coolest mini-games I’ve seen in a long while: The PCs can, room by room, convert objects into raw materials! The module even comes with icons that you can place on the map, sample traps, etc. The rules here are amazing and the siege actually requires these tricks – the PCs will have to withstand no less than 5 waves of assailants and yes, e.g. the rodent king is a lavishly-crafted and potent foe.


Once the PCs have managed to withstand the hordes (or just before they fall to them), the friendly gnome will manage to activate the yuletide express figurine – all aboard the magical railway! The demiplane is Krampus’ domain, who has completely corrupted the Krindlworks…but there is hope: While the PCs have no real chance against the entity, Saint Nick may! Thus, the train is en route towards what remains of the Krindlworks…but once more, the foes are not sleeping: The (fully mapped) train will be attacked by deadly elementals…and if these fail to derail it (yes, badass fights on a winter train!!), Krampus will intervene and crash the train…which would be a good time to note that, even if PCs die here, they respawn, as they accumulate negative levels and Wisdom damage – there is no true death here, only the looming transformation into an allip at Wisdom 0. This also means that enemies slain by the PCs are not really dead – if they are smart and use nonlethal means of conflict resolution, they will possibly have an advantage. The module notes checkpoints, which are particularly helpful to avoid frustration when running this for a younger audience – but more on my discussion of that in the conclusion below.


You see, in Act III, the PCs make their way from the crashed train through the Krampus wilds, and there are quite a few neat optional encounters to increase the challenge; personally, I’d also advocate sending all foes really slain by the PCs after them once more: If they were just tied up, they probably are far away, but the respawning dynamics for NPCs are open enough to allow for that… (Adds an unobtrusive reward for behaving heroically…)


Making their way through the snow-blasted wilds, the PCs will have to contend with horrid Yuletide treants and a winter hag guarding the remains of the proud Krindlworks. It is also here that the PCs can encounter Chillsy. Chillsy is amazing. He is an awakened ice golem kineticist. He’s singing his own theme-song while fighting! To give you an excerpt: “Chillsy, the ice golem, is an overwhelming soul, with a kinetic blade and infusions bold and my cryokinetic cold..:” Come on, that is amazing! Exploring the Krindlworks, the PCs will have to contend with all manner of potent, animated gingerbread foes (led by a gingerbread witch!), a creepy poppet witch (still one of my favorites from Paranormal Adventures; as always, all relevant rules provided)…and remember Nightmare Before Christmas BBEG? Well, there is a representation of the Oogie Bogeyman! (worm that walks bogeyman – really cool!) This thing, as well as a potent orang-pedak, constitute a couple of the dangerous unique creatures that the PCs MUST defeat – for they hold parts of Krindl’s power, who, similarly turned into a child, is imprisoned here.


Once the PCs have managed to defeat the horrible lieutenants of Krampus and reassembled the crook, it’ll be time to face off against the entity once more – with a weakened, but still potent Krindl in their corner, they may actually have a chance against the shadowy vestige of the powerful Krampus – the boss fight is amazing: It sports a total of 3 phases, changes terrain and even has a phase, where the PCs fight on their own, caught within their minds – it is glorious and cinematic! Defeating the vestige returns ownership of the demiplane to Krindl and allows the PCs to spend, concealed by the mighty magic of Krindl, one day as kids…or, you know, the change could be permanent, requiring further quests…or, well, if they were defeated and you’re going for a horror-ending, the module even sports a “bad ending” of sorts, which could yield further adventures as well. (Fyi: The fully-powered stats of Krindl are epic: CR22/MR 6; Rudolph has an effective druid level of 20…)



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout deserves special mention: It is GLORIOUS, full-color and really beautiful; the ribbon for chapters on the side is a nice comfort-plus. The module comes with a ton of original full-color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.


Yuletide Terror is absolutely amazing. It makes use of all the diverse tools that PFRPG offers: Combat, skills, mini-games, social interaction – this is one of the most versatile modules I have read in a long while. This mega-adventures provides a level of quality you usually only get to see in Kickstarters. Alexander Augunas is a great author of crunch, but if this is any indication, he is similarly gifted when it comes to penning adventures; I frankly can’t believe that this is Alex’ first adventure, at least it’s the first one I got to read. Yuletide Terror is thoroughly impressive, from front to back – even if you do not have all the books used here, the module provides what you need, requiring none of them.


Now, there is bound to be the question regarding compatibility for kids: You see, here things depend WHOLLY on the GM and what the GM chooses to emphasize. I’d compare this to one of the darker 80’s kid’s movies. There are definitely some creepy elements here, so in general, I’d recommend that kids should be at least 8, with 10 being probably a kind of sweet spot. Then again, it’s impossible to make proper blanket statements here; heck, some adults can’t stand anything remotely spooky. A good benchmark would imho be labyrinth, nightmare before Christmas and last unicorn – if these work for your kids, then this adventure should as well.


Now, don’t get me wrong: While this *can* be run as a kid-friendly module, it is one that will challenge and entertain adults just as well; in fact, one could consider this a horror adventure, at least to a point; if you properly emphasize the macabre aspects here and there, then this can become pretty dark pretty fast…but ultimately, how you choose to run this mega-adventure is left up to your own tastes. Both playstyles perfectly work.


Anyway, that’s not the primary achievement of the module: The sheer diversity of challenges encountered, the great pacing and high-concept environments, the lovingly-made NPCS – when the structure, the crunch underlying this module, is analyzed, you’ll realize quickly how good this actually is. We have believable, sympathetic characters, we have an epic threat that requires heroes and a satisfying conclusion-array. The module is interesting from both a narrative, and a structural perspective. Furthermore, and that is a huge plus, at least for me, it is bereft of cynicism. Even if you emphasize the darker aspects when running this, the module very much breathes a sense of wonder and whimsy that is impossible to dislike.


This is not a cynic’s hatred for the holidays made module; instead, this is a lovingly crafted love-letter to all things Christmas-related, as seen through the lens of roleplaying storytelling. Yuletide terror is not only the most massive Christmas adventure I know, it also is, by far, the best. This is a masterpiece that breathes passion, care and is, frankly, fun. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that, even if you hate all things Christmas-related, you may still want to get this. Why? Well, you could still strip off the dressing and have an amazing adventure.


Yeah, at this point you probably won’t be surprised by my final rating: 5 stars + seal of approval. Oh, and yes, this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. Even beyond the holiday angle, this is a module that will be hard to beat.


You can get this masterpiece here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Dec 152017

Down in Yon Forest (NGR/OSR)

This module clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages, so let’s take a look!


Wait, before we do, a couple of notes: One, this adventure sports stats for both NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival) and general OSR-stats; if you have the choice, I’d suggest using the NGR-versions.


Secondly, this is a so-called buystarter. This is a term the author uses for an interesting concept: You purchase basically a completed manuscript; each day, the price of the project goes up slightly, as proceeds from the product’s sales are reinvested in artwork, layout, etc. Zzarchov Kowolski has done so twice before. (Yes, reviews of those projects are coming.) So yeah, sufficient interest provided, the adventure’s formal criteria will improve; hence, I will rate this with a WIP-status in mind.


Now, why did I move this ahead in my reviewing queue? Well, it is only seasonally available. You can get this adventure only for a very brief timeframe: At the 25th of December, it will once again vanish into the ether for a whole year. So yeah, if you are interested in this, you need to act fast.


Now, in case you were wondering: This is not a happy-go-lucky Christmas adventure; it sports the rather dark and dry humor of the author, so yeah – not recommended for kids.


This out of the way, let us dive into the details! From here on out, ladies and gentlemen, the SPOILERS will reign. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, only referees around? Great! So, we all know how Christianity superimposed holidays on pagan traditions, right? Well, The Holy Church did just that (accompanied by copious mockery of pagan traditions) – thing is, they did know that the pagans were on to something: In certain locations, the veil between worlds grows dimmer. While the rhythmic chanting of yuletide congregations held the Krampus at bay just as efficiently as the pagan rites, this year will be a bit problematic. You see, the drunken priest has managed to burn himself alive and, in the process of doing so, he also burned down the church. Joy. (Told you this had a dark humor…)


So, the threat is, basically, that Krampus will take all the children…so what to do? Well, breaking off crosses at the cemetery may be smart (blessed, they can hurt the entity…) and there are a couple of additional complications: A child-eating, horribly deformed witch living in an abandoned mill is one issue; convincing some hussars that the old tale is real may be nigh impossible, but hey, worth a try, right? Islands that house perchten (beast-men), random tables for the ice-covered wilderness.


There are roughly 3 different, completely different ways, in which the module can be tackled: 1) The PCs can attempt to delay Krampus; while the entity is too strong to properly defeat (unless they are really lucky), delaying tactics may well work. A breakdown of individual strategies are provided. There is also a fortress, abandoned due to plague and now infested with powerful gargoyles, which may yet act as holy ground, holding the entity at bay – but convincing the townsfolk to go there, even if the fully mapped place is cleared, may be tough. Thirdly, there is the option of awakening the Winter King, a local pagan deity, currently sealed in his abode, which constitutes another dungeon that is fully mapped and depicted – smart players will not loot everything here and try to be respectful, while not being slaughtered by the undead…and hopefully, also not by the nosferatu interloper…


Cool, btw.: From the bodies of defeated foes, new magics may be unearthed (when using NGR rules), while two grimoires may be found – one is btw. the book of moderate darkness. This dry humor also extends to the magic items – there are several items devoted to the Winter King’s rites, including everlasting cakes.



Editing and formatting are good; since this is not yet the final version, I am more forgiving regarding formatting inconsistencies and the like. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column standard of black text on white paper. The version I reviewed does not yet have interior artwork. The cartography in b/w by Dyson logos is great, though I wished we got player-friendly versions. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment in my book.


I ended up enjoying Zzarchov Kowolski’s pagan holiday adventure; it is a dark yarn set in an age of ignorance, but it does have its fun components. Structure-wise, I thoroughly enjoyed the multiple ways in which the module can be tackled and the open-ended problem-solution options taken into account. There is serious fun to be had here – though it should be noted that this is not necessarily a Christmas module in spirit; instead, we have a dark fantasy/horror yarn that makes use of Christmas tropes, but that becomes its own thing. I most certainly consider it to be fun, if not a module I’d play to get into the holiday spirit.


Then again, if you’re like me and have…problems with the holidays, some sort of baggage ad want a module that fits the season without hearkening too close to the things we associate with the holidays nowadays, if you want a dry, dark critique on the season, then this pretty much is perfect.


Now, I really enjoyed this module, due to completely different reasons than most Christmas modules; because it is kind of anti, but without resorting to a full-blown inversion or spitefulness; it is a tale of the holidays in a world, where the meaning behind such a celebration may well spell the difference between life and death.


Now, as mentioned, this is a buystarter; that means it currently does not sport a couple of things I’d usually consider to be crucial – bookmarks, player-friendly maps, formatting – these show definitely that this is a WIP project right now. As such, it wouldn’t be fair to judge it according to the same standards as finished projects – if this was the final version, I’d probably be less lenient. Right now, this is an incredibly inexpensive offering, and it provides some seriously different takes on the themes; as such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. It has the potential of becoming a proper 5-star adventure…or to drop to 3. Only time and this project will tell. We’ll see. If the above sounded interesting, then check it out – every day means a slight price-increases…and, as mentioned before, it will vanish on the 25th


You can get this neat dark fantasy holiday-module here on OBS – but ONLY until the 25th of December!


Endzeitgeist out.


Dec 152017

The Darkest Night (5e)

This brief adventure clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page poem-introduction (by Edward McCulloch), 1 page SRD, elaving us with 5 paes of content, so let’s take a look!


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



All right, in far-off Iceville, when the nights are longest, there is the gift-giving tradition of Kringlefest, named after Nicholas Kris Klaas Kringle, an ancient gnome who brought light in the darkest days and who traditionally presents a Christmas gift to all kids. Now, either a young gnome called holly, or a crazed hermit named Knecht Ruprecht beseech the players to save Kringlefest, for monstrous Krampus has taken control!


Once the PCs leave the village, they will have to defeat snow persons (I am all for political correctness, but here…I don’t know…is anyone offended by snow man? If so, rest assured that the module is properly PC here.) Nice: At the workshop, PCs may avoid patrolling, animated toy soldiers via Stealth and smarts and once inside, they only have to defeat the Krampus and his toy soldier bodyguards to save Kringelfest. Nice: We get a couple of sample quotes, though e.g. spell references are not properly formatted. The brief module concludes with a couple of sample present ideas for the PCs.



Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are pretty good. Layout adheres to Tribality’s nice two-column full-color standard with fitting photo-style artworks included in the deal. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Shawn Ellsworth’s little module is per se a decent Christmas adventure. On the plus-side, it is bereft of cynicism and could potentially be run for kids. On the downside, and I feel like the Grinch for saying so, this is very much the absolute ultimate of bare-bones structures. A couple of nice critters, 3 encounters, that’s it. Yes, it is PWYW. Yes, it has some solid ideas and a couple of nice tricks, but, as a whole, this is only the absolute minimum of Christmas-y things; a bit of snow, a bit of toys, evil Krampus, done. There simply isn’t much to this module and it feels, at least to me, like it could have really used a couple more things to do; perhaps a map of the final area, at least. Something. Anything. As written, this is more of a skeleton of a module. It may be worth checking out, but even as PWYW, I can’t go higher than 3 stars for it.


You can get this mini-module here on OBS for PWYW!


Endzeitgeist out.


Dec 142017

Into the Deep Dark (5e)

This module clocks in at 43 pages of content, 44 if you count the gorgeous full-color map on the inside of the front cover. (The inside of the back cover has btw. one of the most hilarious images I have seen in all my years as a reviewer, also in full color, but that as an aside.)


This review is based on the softcover version of the module, which was sent to me in order to expedite the reviewing process and move the module up in my queue.


Okay, so first things first: This is an Underworld adventure, if the cover didn’t provide ample clue for that. There are, roughly, two different types of Underworld, though – and we should talk a bit about them. Many gamers will probably agree that the notion of the underworld remains one of the strongest, most fantastic vistas that came out of our beloved hobby. But, whether you call it “Underworld”, “Underdark”, “Deep Below” or by some other colorful moniker, there are roughly two types of subterranean vistas that are truly amazing, at least as far as I’m concerned…and for completely different reasons.


This first type of underworld has long been neglected – the truly strange and alien vistas, the dark and potentially horrific below, the depths where things are radically different from anything surface—dwellers may know; the place where godlings sleep and the strange rules. This type of underworld has long been neglected and only hinted at – these depths are only highlighted in precious few books, for example Frog God Games’ superb Cyclopean Deeps duology.


The second type of underworld is no less wondrous, though perhaps a bit more familiar: This would be the type of world that we first think of, when we hear the word: The realm of subterranean kingdoms, where drow and illithids duke it out; the places where the many modules take place. Here, we have functional economies, dwarven holds and a region that is both alien and familiar. This region is no less inspiring, though in a completely different manner; it allows for relatively easy insertion of PCs, sports strange player options, etc. – but unlike the lightless hell of the true depths below, it is very much a strange, yet relatable vista, a country we can’t visit in real life, as it does not exist. Sure, many beings are evil here, but surface dwellers can generally function in their usual capacities and while the world is more dangerous, it also still sports a lot of amenities, if ones seen through a peculiar lens of strangeness.


This module would be firmly rooted in the second tradition of the depiction of the underworld, but does so in a tone I get to see relatively rarely; you see, many settings make the underworld a kind of evil ghetto (AAW Games’ Aventyr would be a notable exception here) – this module, much like some old-school underworld books, adds, to an extent, a slight touch of whimsy and wonder to the proceedings and makes that the central angle.


Okay, beyond that, it should be noted that this module is the sequel to “The Brain -Gorger’s (aka: Illithids minus WotC IP) Appetite” and may be run as such, though this is by no means required. We (re-)join our heroes in Ockney’s Hold, as the Baron has regained use of his senses, and as certain…individuals are arrested.


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



All righty, only GMs around? Great! So, it seems like the PCs managed to foil the plans of the brain-gorger Marlipp – the Baron has regained his senses, but is not particularly happy. He wants the brain-gorger as dead as a doornail. Yesterday. Hence, the PCs are tasked to hunt down the fugitive mastermind and set off towards the underworld. (In case none of the PCs speaks Undercommon, a somewhat handwavy and convenient potion-solution is presented, though personally, I’d prefer PCs trying to pantomime…anyways…)


The trek is pretty uneventful apart from a couple of kobolds and the descent into the lightless realms similarly isn’t too tough, though the battle with a Chuul may well test the adventurers and show them that this place is nothing to be trifled with…and then, the PCs meet one of the most amazing characters I’ve seen in a while. Atop a riding lizard, there is Zanthos. Zanthos is a gelatinous cube that identifies as female. Of sorts. She is also curious, funny and utterly strange. The lavishly detailed dialogue with her provides fully guidance for the GM, with sample Q&As. I love this section. Really fun…and funny, even! How often do you get to talk to a friendly gelatinous cube?


The cube also offers some helpful information, if asked the correct questions, and thus, the PCs are off to Dun Delve – en route, they just have to survive a deadly drow ambush and meet a svirfneblin trading caravan (they btw. use giant mole-like things as beasts of burden)…and a couple of other things. If they get off track, you’ll have a couple of nice sample encounters as well…including one with a greater flail snail. Anyways, the PCs will sooner or later reach Dun Delve if they don’t fall prey to the dangers of the subterranean realms.


Dun Delve is massive…and prejudiced murderhobo PCs will have a very tough time; the focus here is on keeping a low profile and good roleplaying…which is evident from the get-go, as a wererat questions them…and may well yield information. The exploration of the stronghold will also bring the PCs to a drug den, where e.g. two Brian-gorgers are currently taking their drugs – the fully depicted scene is hilarious. I mean it. It almost looks like one of the tentacle-headed monsters is at the psychologist, only that the psychologist is currently holding a hookah-pipe and imbibing. The doofy look in their eyes and whole scene…I don’t know what it is, but it is deeply comical to me. This is further enhanced by the fact that this is NOT a combat encounter – the PCs can actually get quite a lot of information out of the stoned brain-gorgers; Marlipp seems to believe that the Great Brain will save him – and hence is en route to the Brain-gorger city of Quinthrall!


Thus, the PCs are on the road once more – they have to pass fungal forests, deep ones (including a dragon eel)…and finally confront Marlipp! The brain-gorger hasn’t fully recovered from his addiction, but remains a formidable foe – whether the PCs best him or are bested, some mages gate in and capture the creature…but leave the PCs a seal of introduction and invite them to city of Trilllium. Seems like the PCs have just attracted the attention of the mighty Ceaseless, while also satisfying the Baron’s command!


The module comes with a handy monster appendix (including descriptions etc.) a nice hand-out that represents the invitation at the end, and we get a proper, player-friendly version of the amazing Dun Delve map – big kudos there! The module closes with a brief one-page gazetteer of Dun Delve.



Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring issues. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard and the artwork deserves special mention: With Erol Otus, Jeff Butler, Terry Pavlet, Jason Braun, Del Teigeler, Britt Martin, Jeff Easley, Diesel LaForce and Dan Fransee, we have some amazing talents here. The cartography by Dan Fransee and Lloyd Metcalf is also excellent. The softcover booklet comes with a nice, glossy front and back and the interior paper is nice quality as well – no complaints there!


It took me quite some time to fully digest what it was about this book that appealed so much to me; it wasn’t the subtle humor, nor was it the weirdness – I’ve seen both done in less subtle, more in your face ways. In fact, writing this review, I realized that, ultimately, Alex Kammer’s second module is, as a whole, stronger than the sum of its parts. Yes, it is a pretty linear exploration, one with a few hub-scenes; it has a good mix of challenges…so why did it work so well for me?


Okay, so here’s my thesis: This is the module-equivalent of a road-movie through the underdark. We embark, we visit wondrous places, meet quirky characters…and the road moves on. There are hubs, waystations if you will; wondrous vistas that hint at more – yet, the journey is subservient to the need to go on, to find the target. The resolution of the module, which might have been frustrating if presented in another context, feels oddly fitting for the adventure: It is the journey that matters, not the result. At the end of this adventure, the PCs will have seen wondrous vistas and strange things, both wondrous and dangerous. As someone who adores roadtrips and the whole genre, this feels fitting, and, as is my contention, very much deliberate. This whole structure works too well for that mold, that type of thinking, to be coincidence. It is only in hindsight, with a bit of analytical distance, that I can appreciate how these elements come together to create an atmosphere that is uncommon and wondrous; This journey is sometimes funny, sometimes dangerous, but, most of all, it is worth embarking on.


My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


You can get this neat road-trip through the underworld here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.


Dec 142017

Villain Codex IV: Monsters for Meddlesome Heroes

The fourth installment of the Villain Codex-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue at the request of my patreons.


Okay, so we’re changing the formula this time around: Each of the characters featured herein is a monster with unique additionata – class levels, archetypes, etc. Analogue to the regular Villain Codex monikers, this book covers the middle level range: CRs range from 3 to 14. Each of the monsters herein comes with its own b/w-artwork and entry-wise, we focus on stats, though thankfully not to the extent, where this would be a traditional NPC Codex: The respective characters gain depth via the inclusion of goals and plots, which also act as inspiration for the GM. The respective entries note tactics, morale, etc., a nice feature that makes use of the NPCs herein easier.


All right, general characteristics out of the way, we begin with Chudwix, at CR 3. Chudwix is a creature many PFRPG rightfully loathe – a pugwampi spiritualist (ectoplasmist) possessed by the spirit of an evil witch; his lash manifests as a spectral tooth and he bears the scars of a not always particularly amicable relationship. Kin of the Pumps gets a really badass artwork – the gourd leshy feyspeaker druid at CR 4, is a thief of food, seeking to animate scarecrows to end the blight upon the land that the civilized folks are to his mind.


Smoke is interesting – the advanced worg thug rogue (CR 5) was always smarter than others and he has done a rather good job at keeping both his kin and goblins in line…but he is growing old; already middle-aged, it’s only a matter of time before a powerful alpha challenges his position. As such, he has had craftsmen create gear for him…but whether that suffices, only time will tell… Really cool angle here!


Reyshu the Great, at CR 6, is a more straightforward monster/class pairing – we have a faerie dragon illusionist here, one whose artwork in particular struck my fancy – the chameleon/butterfly crossover is a cool take on the concept! He is a controller and sees himself as a benevolent guide for the stupid humans and their cruel tendencies…which can make him an uncommon, well-meaning adversary.


Radnii, at CR 7, is an aranea unchained rogue and frankly sports the most disquieting aranea picture I’ve seen so far. Really creepy. Cool: We get both Halfling AND hybrid stats as well! She is, just fyi, operating a business that has invigorated the whole area…and who cares about a few strangers that go missing…right? Gramblethorne is amazing: At CR 8, the unfettered eidolon bloodrager sports one of the most amazing artworks in the whole series; the entity’s oversized head and hands and disfigured proportions are positively creepy. This is enhanced by the nature of the eidolon: Made to act in social situations, the eidolon hated the indignity and is pretty bloodthirsty. Yeah…definitely one of my favorites herein!


Clovendell the Deathmare is a true villain: An unchained barbarian/ranger multiclass unicorn with the broken soul template, the once proud creature was broken by ogres; now covered in scars that weep, the mad unicorn wants to make others understand her suffering…and she has found a way to use the broken souls of giantkin to help her control massive humanoids… At CR 10, Khaalkthys of Jagged Teeth Cove , the blind sahuagin oracle has heard the voices of the Great Old Ones…and will do their bidding. Pretty classic combination here.


Now pure badass and win would be Rimefyr. At Cr 11, we have a really cool critter, namely a young remorhaz ranger 2/skald 5. A) Remorhazes are kickass critters. B) With intelligence, base stats included and the added tricks, this fellow becomes positively nasty. Bid kudos for this fellow!

Glenleven Linden (CR 12) is a druid (skinshaper) – while the subtlety component is pretty cool here she is yet another scarred treant killing off folks for burning down forests – you know, the motivation of more than 95% of treants adventurers face. Her methods are different, but I wished her story would be a bit more creative. Anyways, at CR 13, we move on to something more interesting: Azagog was bred as a living weapon – the awakened giant squid antipaladin is now raising idols to the Great Old Ones and considers himself their divine will. He is the most interesting take on the trope of the smart squid I’ve seen since Spires of Xin-Shalast.


Now, the final villain herein would be Tezcatlopala – a CR 14 couatl lich sorcerer, born out of despair when trying to save her subjects, has become to consider herself a god; the nomenclature does evoke Tezcatlipoca, which is a rather neat nod, though I wished the feathered snake also had some additional mythological resonance there – where is the smoking mirror? Anyhow, that is criticism on a high level.



Editing and formatting, as I’ve come to expect from this series, is excellent on formal and rules-language levels. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the high density of neat b/w-artworks is a big plus – kudos to Ger Curti. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Kate Baker, Kim C. Frandsen, Nikolai Geier, Jeff Gomez, Joshua Hennington, Jennifer Jones, Mike Kimmel, James McTeague, Matt Roth, Loren Sieg, Jeffrey Swank and Robert Thomson have delivered a rather cool array of adversaries here. Mikko Kallio, Jacob W. Michaels and Mike Welham acted as devs, polishing the material, just fyi.


So yeah, these adversaries are very much worth getting. The material is diverse, fun and challenging; the builds are interesting and for the most part, I also enjoyed the respective fluffy components. My complaints should be taken within the context of impressive creatures contained herein and not as disheartening. As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of adversaries, and while a few of them didn’t blow me away to the extent of the others, this still deserves a heartfelt recommendation. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


You can get these cool adversaries here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.



Dec 142017

The Genius Guide to Mythic Subpaths

This Genius Guide clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page introduction, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, what are mythic subpaths? In short, they are a kind of deviation/modification of an existing mythic path, somewhat akin to e.g. subdomains, one that comes in roughly 3 distinctions: Archetypical subpaths are only available to characters that chose the listed mythic path or paths. Racial subpaths are tied to the race noted and universal subpaths are available for, bingo, everyone. Mythic subpaths thus do sport some sort of prerequisite to qualify for them.


Okay, got that? Humans can choose the dilettante subpath, but need to meet no less than 3 (!!) categories for mythic boons in the adventure that led to ascension. The mythic surge is lowere by one die step for them, but they may gain Dual Path, Extra Path and the extra mythic feast 1st tier universal path ability multiple times; at 5th and 10th level an additional time, which is pretty potent. Instead of gaining a mythic feat, you may choose one of 4 different abilities, which include a champion’s mythic weapon training, path dabbling (synergy with Dual Path included), ultimate versatility (with more uses at 4th tier) and being treated as a fighter for feat prerequisites of human feats. Not the biggest fan of having ultimate versatility’s 3rd tier prerequisite potentially circumvented by the combination of this flexibility ability.


Halflings may select to become fortune’s favored – provided they rolled three natural 20s in the adventure that led to their ascension. They also must have adaptive luck to choose the subpath…and they are problematic: You seem they may use adaptive luck as mythic power interchangeably. That is an instant, massive increase of the most potent resource in the game. Not getting near my table. While this replaces the 1st tier ability and while the non-mythic feat selection restriction is nasty, this still is not a subpath I’d allow.


Herald of the Gods is universal and requires the selection of a patron deity, 1st tier nets you a domain – the spells you get there are cast via mythic power expenditure. Additionally, you can, at 6th tier, cast commune and may even use mythic power to do so as a free action. This one replaces all mythic feats gained as base mythic abilities. At 1st tier, the mythic subpath nets the 6th tier (!!) archmage’s sanctum path ability sans servants and you don’t have a door: You may acess it via mythic power and take 3 creatures per tier with you. Now, what’s amazing is this: The area expands and ties in with the kingdom building rules – you get to properly develop your sanctum as a form of paradise for your faithful, with higher levels providing a permanent gate to it! The subpath is locked into divine scourge at 3rd tier and every 3 tiers thereafter.


The legendary ruler universal path ability is another one I really enjoy – the path is all about being the ruler of a kingdom, enhances leadership, etc. – no complaints regarding this one. The lord of rebirth would be a samsaran-exclusive and requires that you die during your moment of ascension. If you do, you basically become a Dr. Who variant – you immediately reincarnate upon being slain…but only for a total of 13 times. This replaces hard to kill. You also get the sanctum at 1st tier and may expend mythic power while inside it to scry…and akin to the Tardis, you may place the door, though teleport restrictions apply. The Dr. Who reference is btw. earned – much like the Doctor, you temporarily lose mythic abilities when reincarnating, though this restriction becomes less imposing at 9th tier. Very flavorful!


The peacekeeper is exclusive to champion, hierophant, guardian and marshal, and requires that you ended a blood feud, war, etc. prior to ascension. The subpath restricts the choices for Dual Path and allows you to use surges to render all damage caused with attacks benefiting from it to non-lethal damage. The subpath also comes with a potent sanctuary aura and the option to replace mythic feats or path abilities with boons that enhance the aura, the elimination of a save against it for targets that worship the same deity, numerical escalation to Charisma-based checks to resolve conflict etc. – I like this one, particularly since you can help your allies being peaceful and efficient as well. Kudos


The nine-tailed heir kitsune subpath is per se interesting, but suffers a bit from the age of this book; you see, this Genius Guide was penned some time ago and was only recently released; Alexander Augunas has since then grown tremendously as a designer and while this is not bad, the kitsune subpath in particular pales before the amazing kyubi paragon he has penned since.


Now, the final 4 pages of this pdf are not devoted to more subpaths, but instead provide mythic feats. There is a reason for that, at least to an extent – the human-centric luck feats, for example. When compared to Legendary Games’ solutions for these feats (e.g. when looking at Bestow Luck, released in mythic mini #70), you’ll notice that the options presented herein gravitate to a higher power-level than LG’s – this does not make them bad, mind you, but it should be noted that the feats presented herein, e.g. the mythic version of Dauntless Destiny, focus on some serious escalation of numbers – you’ll see + tier daily uses of limited use feats, tier added to rolls etc. here. This does not hold universally true, mind you – LG’s mythic rules support has the massive advantage of being able to draw on a vast resource of mythic feats, spells and path abilities, though for mythic core-centric gameplay, e.g. this pdf’s take on Critical Versatility may be the more down to earth one. LG’s solutions, in direct comparison, tend to favor mythic surges a bit more often than the ones featured herein.


Now, just to make that clear – I don’t begrudge this pdf the inclusion of these feats, not in the slightest; however, considering the redundancy aspect and LG’s MASSIVE array of books that support mythic gameplay, I’d remain with LG’s solutions here, if only to maintain overall consistency. Not a fault of the pdf, mind you…but ultimately, I wished the book provided more subpaths instead.



Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are very good. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with solid color stock art and is fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Now, I’ve said as much above – you can very much see the increase in design skills Alexander Augunas has acquired since penning this book. On the plus side, several of the subpaths herein are absolutely amazing and flavorful and should be considered to be fun. On the downside, we have, at times, needless escalation of numbers (which is already an issue in mythic gameplay) and a couple of high-tier options that are unlocked earlier; while this doesn’t HAVE to yield issues, it should receive some contemplation on part of the GM. Not all options herein are for every game and escalations in mythic power availability are a big no-go as far as I’m concerned, being one of the very few things mythic characters need to carefully manage.


That being said, there are some definite gems herein, which may warrant getting this book – as such, I consider this to be pretty much a mixed bag and thus rate it 3 stars.


You can get this pdf here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Dec 132017

Heroes of the Haunted Sea

This massive installment of the big Porphyra-regional sourcebooks/player guides clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 64 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?


All right, we begin with a well-written piece of introductory prose that establishes the tone of the region (hint: not the most harmless region of Porphyra…) before we dive into the respective racial write-ups. We begin with the bilgerat, a ratfolk variant that gets +2 Dex and Int, -2 Wis; they are small ratfolk with a slow speed, carrion sense, darkvision 60 ft., Agile Maneuvers as a bonus feat, a 1d2 bite attack (minor complaint – you need to default to standard and look up the type), +2 to saves versus ingested poisons, disease or the nauseated and sickened conditions, +2 to Appraise and Perception to find hidden doors, constant speak with animals (rats and other rodents only), swarming and +1 to Stealth and do not lose Dex-mod when climbing or using Acrobatics to cross slippery surfaces. The race comes with a cool trait that provides whip-proficiency and lets bilgerat characters employ ropes as chains or whips. Cool.


Deep-spawn are envision as aboleth-blooded tieflings in the context of this region, which, rules-wise, translates to +2 Str and Cha, -2 Con. They are outsiders with Aboleth Heritage as a bonus feat, darkvision 60 ft., fiendish resistance, +2 to saves vs. illusions, a prehensile tail and they may envenom weapons etc. with toxic saliva/blood. Cool: The ability has a proper daily cap. Even cooler: We get a massive 50-entry strong table that lists cosmetic abnormalities that represent the deep-spawn’s tainted nature.


The 3rd player race would be the forlarren, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str. They are fey with low-light vision, get +2 to Craft and Profession, DR/cold iron equal to half their character level, min 1, max 5, 2 claws worth 1d4 each (properly codified). Forlarren treat Stealth as class skill and, rather cool, the signature remorse upon killing a being has been translated properly.


Next up would be the half-medusa, who gets +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis. They have darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Perception as well as +2 to AC versus flanking foes. They add +1 to the DC of all effects that cause the fascinated condition and 1/day, the half-medusa may force a target of such an effect to reroll and use the second result. They are treated as humans, medusa and monstrous humanoids…that is a bit weird, since human and monstrous humanoid usually are mutually exclusive. Just as an aside – the aforementioned races and those to follow all sport their own traits, most of which actually do something worthwhile, balanced and interesting…but we’re not yet done with races.


The halinae (half-nereids) gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str, are native outsiders with a swim speed of 30 ft and the same speed on land. They are amphibious and may assume the shape of a single human. They get 120 ft. deepsight, treat their Cha for the purpose of the water-bloodline and sorcerer class abilities as +2, may cast nereid’s grace 1/day as a SP and 1/day activate a 30-foot fascination aura.


Humans of the region get improved racial traits to account for Porphyra’s slightly increased power-level, with Skill Focus at 1st,8th and 16th level, two favored classes and +1 skill rank as well as +2 to Diplomacy and Sense Motive in social situations. Maenads gain +2 Con and Wis, -2 Int, have Wild Talent, get +2 to Profession (sailor) and Swim as well as Survival at sea. They get +4 to CMD to resist bull rushes and trip attempts on ships as well as weapon familiarity with flails, heavy flails and pilums. They add +1 to the DC os saves vs. sonic effects. Maenads with Charisma of 13+ can cast energy ray 1/day, sonic only. Minor complaint: The power is not properly italicized.


Alluria’s Obitu race has been modified: They gain +2 Str and Dex (slightly lopsided), -2 Cha and are native outsiders with darkvision, resistance 5 vs. negative energy and no hp loss from negative levels. They get +2 to saves vs. death effects, energy drain, etc. They get +4 to saves vs. disease and poison and are immune to sleep effects. They don’t sleep, but incur -2 to Perception while resiting. Escape Artist and Acrobatics are class skills for them. The obitu are tied to a magical disease, the waters of vivification, which is a pretty cool angle here.


The orcam orca-folk can also be found – they get +2 Con and Cha, 30 ft. base speed and swim speed (minor redundancy/cut-copy-paste glitch here), low-light vision, cold resistance 2, hold breath, proficiency with spears, tridents and nets, +2 to Ride dolphins and whales and as a move action, they can emit an echolocation pulse, which may be negated by silence (not italicized), but only underwater. Satyrine gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int, are fey with low-light vision and gain a primary headbutt attack for 1d6 that may daze targets on a failed save if inflicting 6+ damage; not a big fan of this mechanic; it become pretty much automatic almost immediately. They have stability, gain +1 to Bluff and Profession (sailor) and gain a 1/day standard action heightened charm person based on a spell level equal to ½ character level and with Charisma as governing attribute for the save DC.


Okay, so the races chapter, in spite of my absurdly high expectations regarding races, is, as a whole, very well presented; the power-level is pretty concise and with a few minor hiccups as exceptions, I enjoyed all write-ups presented. Down-side: None of the races presented here come with their age, height and weight tables.


So, here is the coolest component of the Haunted Seas. The Deity Nise has ensorcelled the islands and they thus move: 10 months a year (which are not clear!), the landlocked parts of the haunted seas move throughout Porphyra, allowing the region to collect a vast array of diverse resources! Oh, and having suddenly a massive region on your hands can make for a really cool change of local dynamics! The region comes with a great. Player-friendly full-color regional map and even a rhyming poem/shanty about these so-called Rides, which are a glorious way to render the whole region volatile. Unlike Vernathea’s Veil-region, the Haunted Sea is not encased in a massive storm as it moves, providing a completely different experience for the moving region. On the islands of the haunted sea, Kormus would be a den of vice; Port Calist’s splendor is governed by the potent guilds; Sthenno is the place for subterfuge, with broodmothers of the half-medusa and forlarren races reigning supreme. Finally, Xebic has been raised on the shell of a giant dragon turtle, with an air of somber melancholy over the loss of the critter’s loss. The settlements in the haunted sea come with a wide variety of cool settlement qualities and all of these aforementioned, unique settlements not only come with proper settlement statblocks, they also sport great vignettes that do a really nice job at capturing the flavor of the respective locales.


This is not where we stop, though: We also are introduced to a variety of other places of interest, some of which practically demand to be used: From the bloodstained cay to the flooded ghetto, there is some interesting adventuring potential to be found here. Yes, there are cannibal isles, just fyi.


Now, this would not be a Porphyran player’s guide without a massive array of player-centric options. Proper underwater bombing for alchemists (with optional increased splash radius for a reduced potency) can be found. The Blackpowder disciple base class gets an archetype with the blackpowder rover – basically a pirate-y flurrying monk/gun-user. Not too excited here. The Deck warden mariner archetype is a sea-specialist – favored vessel, storm sight, sure-footed; you get the idea. The fiendish stalker is a forlarren slayer that focuses on natural attack sneaks (using d8s for them, d4s for sneak attacks with weapons) and, a limited amount of times per day, they may substitute fire damage for sneak attack, courtesy of their connection to hell. Yeah, these fellows are evil. At higher levels, we get minor defensive auras, clinging hellfire sneaks, etc. per se flavorful, evil killer. Knight sister warpriests are devoted to the Stormmaiden and gain tactician and slight bonuses when healing…but pay for that with lost sacred weapon features at 4th level and higher. The Nereid sorcerer bloodline nets a poisonous touch, the ability to become transparent at higher levels and sea-based abilities – no complaints here.


The rime chemist alchemist is Wisdom-based and gains desiccation bombs, which are particularly potent versus oozes, plants etc., increasing the damage output there, but at the cost of lower damage versus other targets. The bombs can also sicken and their damage-type is concisely defined. The mutagen nets you the aquatic subtype including ½ base speed swim speed at the cost of poison use. The archetype may choose from a limited array of revelations from the waves mystery and higher levels provide SPs, upgrades, etc. – all with the water-theme. The archetype, as a whole, provides a viable exchange – no complaints. River Guide undine shamans are underwater trackers/striders and can provide water breathing via kisses and, at the highest levels, even grant freedom of movement (italicization missing). The savage bulwark skald has diminished spellcasting and qualifies easier for shield-based combat feats. The archetype is a defense specialist that gains some solid boosts to shield use. The serpent disciple half-medusa monk replaces stunning fist with bardic performance and gains both climb and swim speed – cool: They get to choose which movement rates to improve at higher levels. Instead of maneuver training, we get stern gaze. Quivering palm is replaced with a potentially petrifying strike that is particularly hard to resist if your speed’s been reduced to 0 ft.


The pdf does sport the Aboleth Exemplar 10-level PrC. Anyhow, the PrC gets ½ BAB-progression, ½ Fort – and Will-save progression, 7/10th spellcasting progression and 2 + Int-mod skills per level. The PrC nets no new proficiencies. If the character has the aboleth bloodline, levels in the PRC stack with sorcerer levels; if not, the PrC unlocks bloodline powers of said bloodline. Over the course of the PrC, characters gain a total of +4 Str, +2 Int and +4 Cha, with 1st, 4th and 7th level providing natural armor bonus +2 each. 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter yield a bloodline feat and 2nd level sports the ability to excrete slime that turns acidic at 6th level and further improves at 10th level. 3rd level yields a 30-ft.-cone acid-breath weapon, usable 1/day, with 7th and 10th level providing additional uses. 5th level yields tremorsense, 7th 1/day the ability to assume medium aboleth form, including mucus cloud, but only in this form. This form may be assumed a second time at 10th level, and the form is improved, becomes Large, etc. 9th level yields the tentacles bloodline power.


The Exalted Captain PrC would be a variant of the Battle Herald prestige class, customized for a seafaring focus – it is a solid variant, though you will need to consult the original battle herald – think of the presentation as basically an archetype for a prestige class. Beyond these, we get a bunch of new feats. Among these, you’ll find the aforementioned Aboleth Heritage feat, which includes 1/day poison spray, secondary tail attacks etc. – cool choices! There are also three Chosen of…-feats – these feats denote champions of specific deities and provide potent boons, which may only be invoked a fixed number of times per day to offset their power. Nice array. We can find Deep-Sea Adaptation for higher level characters, extended echolocation range, a Barroom Brawler follow-up feat that helps qualify for combat feats as well, an improvement for racial faerie fire SPs, further upgrades for tails, better throwing underwater, share your racial remorse for killing (and upgrade that component further…) and a Whirlwind Feint that gets interaction with the established feats right. All in all, a solid feat-chapter with some cool rules-hole-filling feats for specific flavors of characters.


Unless I have miscounted, we also get 25 new spells – these range from the self-explanatory anchor over the force-based boarding plank to calm waters and some interesting tricks: Like a spell to deflect ramming attacks of incoming ships! There is also a spell that temporarily discorporates a single sail, a spell to desalinate water, a mage’s lavish keelboat – you get the idea. The focus here is utility, but quite a few of the spells look deceptively simple, but can have really fun repercussions in naval combat and environments – though, as you could glean from a couple of the utility spells mentioned, there are a few of them that definitely fit to Porphyra’s high-magic aesthetics, but which I’d not introduce to grittier settings to maintain the difficulty of wilderness survival. Minor complaint: I get the balancing rationale of the spell, but I don’t think that, flavor-wise, scalding sea should inflict untyped damage. The untyped nature is balanced by spell level etc., but still. Feels wrong from an internal logic for me. Then again, that may just be me.


Now, for quite some time, the equipment chapters of these books have been favorites of mine, and this is no different: We get rules for air bladders and weight kits, belaying pins, life vests, lobster traps, swimfins…and materials: From crocodile to shark leather, you’ll have the rules for stylish leather…and kraken bane thorn weapons, armor from Kraken beak, whale bone or obsidian weaponry…there is a lot of cool materials here. Among the alchemical items, we find oil that can help to slightly calm the seas; we can find slippery eel slime, Cha-enhancing manatee tears, venoms…some really cool stuff.


Among the magic items, bone compasses point away from danger, while bone flags help being a sailor and enhance saves vs. fear, while also allowing for the use of fear 1/day as a standard action. Deckhand rings and the improved captain’s variant help skill challenged characters contribute; there is a cursed map that points towards danger (and diminished rewards) and 4 enchanted figureheads are included. The helm of a fabled triton kraken-slayer, a cloak that keeps the water-dwellers moist…some neat tricks here. Now, one of my favorite aspects of these books is definitely that they include MASSIVE, extremely convenient equipment lists: This not only is nice in the context of the book; the availability thus provided lends its own sense of identity to the region. Grouped by type in the respective sub-tables, this section is a great candidate for printing out and tucking into your GM-screen.


The pdf also provides a massive cadre of sample NPCs: We get a CR 7 knight sister, a CR 4 blackpowder rover, a CR 8 fiendish stalker, a mighty CR 16 sorcerer/aboleth exemplar,a CR 6 savage bulwark and a rime chemist at the same range; there is a deck warden at CR 5, a river guide at CR 2, a CR 13 tactician/sea singer/battle herald (Neat!) and a master of many styles/serpent disciple dual archetype at CR 11. Nice NPC codex section.


Finally, we get a nice bonus-pdf: This time around, we get a new monster, the CR 3 Botach, an incorporeal spirit somewhere between the lines of fey and undead, the entity comes with an aura of ill luck and its mere presence causes potentially horrific, dire catastrophes – dispose of it…fast! Neat one!



Editing and formatting, on a rules-language level, are very good – I noticed no glaring issues in the presentation or functionality of the rules. On a formal level, I did notice e.g. a couple of missed italicizations, a superfluous “G”, an instance of a component that was bolded and should have been italicized…while not perfect, the book as a whole is presented in a solid manner. Layout adheres to a two-column standard that is pretty printer-friendly: b/w with Purple highlights. The book sports several nice, full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks and all.


Treyson Sanders, with additional writing by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, delivers a massive tome here: Bang-for-buck-ratio-wise, this player’s guide delivers. The overall quality of the crunch is pretty high as well; while you won’t necessarily find mind-blowing modifications among the class options, they are better than most naval specialists, in that they sport some interesting flavor components. The rather well-balanced racial chapter was an impressive read; while not all are suitable for gritty gameplay, the races should not unbalance most regular fantasy games. The regional areas of interest noted ooze flavor, and so do several of the items, materials, etc.


In short, all in all, this is a well-rounded player’s guide. The region is wondrous, weird and has some massive conflict potential: And suddenly, the haunted sea if right at your door! Go! Yes, that can change the dynamics of a region in rather interesting ways; heck, you could potentially play a siege against one of the isles: Your paltry hovel of a homebase only has to withstand the assaults until the Haunted Sea goes elsewhere…


So yeah, there is a lot here I like. At the same time, I honestly found myself wishing we’d get less naval class options and more information on the respective islands and their unique cultures; a couple of the class options tie in well with the flavor presented there (and that’s a huge plus!), but a few of them imho are a bit less exciting. This notwithstanding, the pdf manages to keep the high standards set by these player’s guides – the series has consistently scored at the higher ranks of my rating scale and this is no different. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. Very much worth checking out!


You can get this massive guide here on OBS!


You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.


Dec 132017

The Terrible Revenge of Simpering Malexineuss the Pretender (OSR)

This module clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


All right, as this is an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, only GMs around? Great! The town of Middlesmith was once renowned far and wide for its smithies, though nowadays, the crossroads tavern of this waystop constitutes perhaps the most remarkable place. This place for the weary traveler is run by the wizard Ironkainen, whose private abode can be found in the tavern’s extradimensional attic. More than one trespasser was found horribly mauled, ostensibly by the dread Gameleon, which guards the private place – as such, that particular place became known as the “Gamehole.” All could have been nice, but a particularly unpleasant wizard named Simpurarrynkh Ahsarexnu came to town – the arrogant fop wants to build his estate here and has, with as much charm as you’d expect, failed to win over anyone. Yep, that would be the simpering Malexineuss referenced in the title.


Now, villagers have begun becoming sick…not with cough…but with THE SICKENING! *D’unh-D’unh-D’UNH* He was last heard whispering threats and has vanished. Enter the PCs, who will find no monster in the gamehole, but rather adventure: They will get to pick from a couple of minor magical items – once the PCs have taken an item, they will sit at a table…and in a blinding flash of light, begin adventuring, as a meta-inception of sorts – the table manifests in the middle of a forest – time to explore!


In case you’ve been wondering – the tongue-in-cheek tone and flavor does show that this was probably written as a convention module for Gamehole Con, though the insider jokes are kept to a level where they don’t impede the atmosphere. Still, if the title did not provide ample clues for you, this is not a particularly mega-serious module.


The fully mapped (in color) forest comes with a couple of en route encounters with classical threats, but ultimately, the PCs will find the eponymous’ wizard’s abode: A little, pretty simple puzzle that is based on trial an error can be found – the PCs will need to activate plates in sequence, though ultimately, only one of the plates is relevant; that being said, failure may put the PCs in conflict with a rather deadly creature. Within the tower, the PCs may meet a deathdealer – a hemispherical rock, from which deadly, organic, eye-studded spikes jut forth below; a strange and fully depicted critter here. Speaking of deadly – yep, there is a room, where the ceiling is a gelatinous cube. A strange magical/monstrous effect can be found. The PCs may encounter one Tlaggar, deadly magic-user; minor note: The spell references throughout the module have not been italicized, which, depending on your OSR-system of choice, may be slightly jarring. The cellar hold a really deadly encounter and the way up to Malexineuss’ chambers is guarded by another lethal and uncommon monster.


The path up is btw. studded with magical notes proclaiming doom for the foes of Malexineuss…and frankly, while the wizard may be a hedonist, disgusting, a coward, toady and an all-around despicable being, he is NOT a pushover; his tactics, like those of Tlaggar before him, are provided in a rather interesting detail; should the PCs prevail in spite of his tactics and defenses, he’ll grovel and beg…and yes, he is responsible for the Sickening…and gloats, in the tradition of unlikable a-hole villains, on how it can be treated, thus ending the module.



Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard with nice original b/w-artworks inside. Cartography is excellent and in full-color, though no player-friendly, key-less versions are provided. The pdf does not sport bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.


Ed Greenwood is a legend, and there is a reason for that. The module sports his trademarks; it is streamlined, well-written, and really challenging. Malexineuss is a villain the players will truly hate: Petty, vindictive and thoroughly disgusting. Now, the module’s convention-game/one-shot focus is pretty evident in the winking inside-jokes and the overall set-up. If you’re looking for a serious, epic storyline, then this may be not for you. If you’re looking for a fun, linear crawl that will challenge the PCs, then this should do it. Plus: How often can you get an Ed Greenwood adventure for PWYW? Exactly.


This is worth reading, and while I’d usually settle on a 4-star verdict, the PWYW-status adds +0.5 stars and I have an in dubio pro reo policy, which means that my official verdict will round up.


You can check out this funny little module for PWYW here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Dec 132017

Wonderworker Hybrid Class

This hybrid class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This review was added to and moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of one of my patreons.


The wonderworker is a hybrid of two of the most powerful classes available, namely wizard and druid. Chassis-wise, it receives d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with club, dagger, sling and quarterstaff, but not any armor. Her somatic component sporting spells are subject to arcane spell failure chance when wielding shields or wearing armor. The class gets ½ BAB-progression as well as good Will-save progression.


The class begins with Craft Wondrous Item as a bonus feat at first level. Spellcasting-wise, the wonderworker draws spells from the sorcerer/wizard-list, adding the druid spell-list. Druid spells thus converted are treated as arcane spells. Spells need to be prepared ahead of time and the governing spellcasting attribute of the class would be Intelligence. Spells are not prepared in a spellbook, but instead are stored in the wonderworker’s imagination. They begin play with all 0-level wonderworker spells + 3 1st-level spells, +Int-modifier 1st level spells. Upon gaining a new level, the wonderworker gains 2 new spells known of a spell level the wonderworker has access to. The wonderworker caps at 4 slots per spell level and is a full caster, gaining spells of up to 9th level.


Tying into this would be the 1st level wonderful bond, which may take one of two forms: The first is a bonded item, which grants access to Air, Animal, Earth, Fire, Plant or Water as a cleric domain. “Wonderworkers also have access to a set of Animal and Terrain domains.” – no idea what that sentence is supposed to mean. For the determining of the cleric level for these, class level is used. Wonderwrokers choosing this option gain bonus spells from the domain via the domain spell slot. The object does not cost anything and is masterwork. As always, casting without such an item requires a hefty concentration check. At higher levels, material and magic item abilities/properties may be added. The second option available would be a bond with a magical animal companion – this companion is incompatible, thankfully, with eidolons, etc.


This companion’s growth begins at BAB +1 and increase this to BAB +14. Save-wise, we oddly begin with +3 for Fort and Ref-saves, but scale up to what amounts to a ½ progression. The companion starts with 2 skill ranks and increases that to 16. Up to 8 feats are gained. At 3rd level, the companion gains +2 natural armor, increasing yb a further +2 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. In this interval, the companion also gains +1 Str/Dex bonus, culminating at +6 at 18th level. The companion gains 1 bonus trick and increases that to up to 7. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield ability score increases. The companion begins play with link and sports d10 HD, gaining up to 14 HD over the 20 levels of progression. The companion also gets SPs: At 1st level, a 0-level at-will SP; 3rd, 9th and 15th level yield an SP of choice from the wonderworker’s spell-list, usable 3/day, which may be of a spell level that can’t exceed ½ the companion’s HD. There’s a formatting glitch in the DC of these: “10 + ½ the creature’s hd + Con bonus” – spot the formatting deviation. Starting at 6th level, the natural attacks of the companion are treated as magic.


The beasts available would be: Ankheg, basilisk, bulette, chimera, cockatrice, girallon, griffon, kraken, manticore, owlbear, rust monster, sea serpent, stirge, unicorn and warg. Advancements are gained at either 4th or 7th level. The respective beasts have pretty different power-levels – a bit more careful balancing between the options would have been nice. It should also be noted that these options provide pretty potent assisted flight at 1st level – depending on the type of campaign you run, this can be problematic. Speaking of which: The wonderworker does, RAW, not get Handle Animal as a class skill, which is certainly weird, considering that the magical creature needs to use tricks. It should also be noted that these monsters don’t get their iconic tricks – you have a basilisk, but no petrifying gaze. You have a chimera, but no breath weapon. I get the balancing intention here, but yeah.


1st level, 2nd level and every even level thereafter yield one example of the signature ability of the class – a wonderwork. The first of these is a hybrid spell. The composite spells must be of the same school and the highest level of the constituent spells determines the spell level of the wonderwork. The longest casting time is inherited, as is the shortest range. You may, however, choose which target the wonderwork will inherit from the parent spells. The hybrid spell inherits the shortest duration. While the wording here is a bit wonky, wonderwork spells have a save t negate – you inherit one from the parent spells. If SR applies to one of the parent spells, the wonderwork is also susceptible to SR. A target hit by such a hybrid spell is subjected to the combined effects of both spells, though magical increases to ability scores do not stack. One sample combo-spell is provided (missing several italicizations and sporting heritage references to parent spells). Wonderwork hybrid spells may only be cast 1/day, but otherwise behaves like a spell.


The second form of wonderwork…seems to have been cut. That’s it. Weird.


The class comes with an archetype for the class, the meddlesome magician, who gains Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Sense Motive and Sleight of Hand as class skills. The archetype gains 6 bonus skill points at 1st, 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. When a target of a meddlesome mage’s spells is threatened by an ally, the target tales a -1 penalty to the save against the spell, which increases by -1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Flanking by allies increases the penalty by a further -1. This replaces wonderful bond.



Editing and formatting aren’t perfect, but better than in most Wayward Rogues Publishing classes – the class is functional and works as depicted. Not perfectly, but yeah. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks. It is a bit unfortunate that you can’t highlight text or copy from the pdf – a comfort detriment.


Aaron Hollingsworth’s wonderworker is an interesting class: The class attempts to balance the superior spells with a weak chassis (the class does lack a crucial class skill) and a companion that is deliberately weaker than it could easily be.


Now, personally, I think that this class can be interesting, particularly for high-fantasy/high-powered campaigns that don’t mind the access to pretty good flight at low levels. At the same time, the wonderworker is a VERY strong option, in spite of the serious spells known restrictions. The hybrid spells are a WIDE OPEN concept that obviously, system-immanently, requires some GM oversight. That being said, the concept is presented in a relatively concise and succinct manner – probably as close to how you can depict the ambitious concept as possible. The magical beast companion tries to make up for the limitations on spells known, but to me, it seems like one hybrid spell class and one that focuses on going all out with the companion, would have probably been more rewarding.


That being said, I can see the class work well in some campaigns. If you’re running a higher powered high fantasy campaign, then this fellow may deliver if you’re willing to overlook some minor power-discrepancies between the companions and provide some GM guidance in hybrid spell creation. The editing glitches and inability to parse text from the pdf makes it more inconvenient to use than it should be. These are slight detriments and as such, we have, as a whole, a mixed bag here. A relatively solid, if slightly problematic class offering; slightly, but not significantly, on the positive side as far as mixed bags are concerned. Hence, I will rate this 3 stars.


You can get this class here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Dec 122017

Rhûne: Frigid Reflections

The finale of the „Beyond the Glittering Fane“ adventure arc clocks in at 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 ¾ pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with approximately 67 ¼ pages of content, quite a massive module!


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



All right, still here? After their hard-earned triumph in the furious preceding module, the PCs are contacted by Knight-commander Erik Ullsteinnr, who shares a rather odd observation – some of the vanquished undead in the recent conflict seem to leave preternaturally cold shards of ice; his concern also has a personal dimension: An old friend of his, the dwarf Skimmr, may be succumbing to the stone touch; thus, the PCs set out towards the town of Utvikle, but en route, they are once again beset by potent foes, namely raiders that have succumbed to the dreaded rage fever! Pretty cool, btw.: Piloting the ship, the chance for the captain to die and information to relay during the journey have all been provided…and yes, sea serpent attack included. This continues one tradition I love about the whole adventure arc – instead of just glossing over transitions, the saga develops them properly, lets them breathe, and thus instills a sense of the vastness and wonder of Rhûne.


The town of Utvikle, lavishly mapped, is certainly pretty, and while the map does have some explanatory notes, none of them represent SPOILERS, making the map actually a feasible choice as a beautiful player-handout. Kudos there! Slightly irritating: The poor dwarf’s name is annoyingly inconsistent throughout the module: Skimmr, Skemmr, Skemmir – while that sort of vowel change is pretty common in Icelandic, I am proficient in the language and the shifts here are not predicated on the regular grammar. On the plus-side, a detailed rumor table and a magical shotgun (Semmr’s Breiða Brótja – roughly: broad/spreading broken-maker) as well as a fully mapped tavern can be found: Huge kudos: The layout and construction of the Wild Breeze tavern has, as a whole, sensible placement of fires and rooms. At this point, the PCs will also encounter the first counter-measure of their BBEG – when frigus zombies led by a juggernaut of blind fury assault, the PCs will have a lot on their plates…


In the aftermath of the attack, the PCs will be contacted by the vitkarr – Jägare (or Jågare – the nomenclature is once more inconsistent), an ice ælf, who seems to know more about the undead – however, during the talk, there is a good chance that the PCs will be attacked by Vorskoi, the glacies vampire – and there is a good chance he’ll kill Jägare…though even if he does, the arrival of a valkyrie may allow the PCs to change the ice ælf’s fate…


The undead horde under the command of the glacies vampire are making their path towards the pale tower…and while the PCs may well choose to follow them, they do have a chance to arrive sooner by cutting through the territory of a mighty giant…and return to the psychosis-inducing pale tower, which may well be a return for some PCs! And yes, the pale tower’s unique effects are included for your convenience. Per default, this section is cinematic as the PCs hack through frigus zombies…but if you have the “Into the Pale Tower”-module, this would be a great way t restock a fully depicted dungeon.


Anyways, as the PCs reach Vorskroi, his machinations bear fruit and the gate opens to swallow the PCs and undead alike, transporting them to Niflæheim, home of ice ælves and realm of all winter! (And yes, if the glacies vampire did fall to the PCs, you’re not in trouble – the pdf provides solutions for this bottleneck!)


“Pff, winter survival is a cakewalk at these levels.” Oh boy, you WILL suffer if you believe that! The winter hazards presented here are BRUTAL. As in: If PCs aren’t smart, they may well be killed all off by the brutal weather! So yeah, turns out that traveling to a world of perpetual, supernatural apocalyptic winter *is* a perilous endeavor! Big plus for capturing that! Now, sooner than later, PCs that do not fall prey to having ice crystals grow on them etc. will find the ice ælves and their settlement…but their reception will be. Well. Cold. In order to be accepted, the PCs must complete 3 tasks (though silver-tongued PCs that drank deeply from Mimir’s well may manage to require less tasks…) – hunting flesks, gathering striking stones ( which is perilous, as the PCs may need to deal with a whole table of icicles waiting to impale them as they mine…) and purging gardens from a rot grub infection all are certainly tasks befitting of heroes.


The grand success and accompanying feast is rudely interrupted by none other than Níðhöggroth, the quasi-deific super-monster of the realm; guess what? Yep, they should frickin’ run. Ultimately, the trail brings the PCs to the ruins of the gelid glacier, where legions of the frostbitten dead await, guarding the ruins of the vast temple of Isa! Within the confines of this majestic temple, a variety of different tasks loom – we once again get a gorgeous full-color map (wished we’d get a player-friendly version to cut up and use as a handout as well…) and the challenges are interesting and breathe flavor: Bells that can emit deadly pulses of sonic energy, flavorful rooms and well-presented, deadly hazards compliment a rewarding dungeon, which focuses on a rather grand plan: Encased in ice, there lies Drittsekk (literally dirt-bag, which elicited a lol from me), bastard of Mhamnoch and super-powerful glacies vampire of Gargantuan proportions; and he may well be set loose, if the PCs bumble. In fact, eliminating the quasi-divine giant-thing may be a good plan…provided they can deal with the already boss-worthy chief in charge of restoring Drittsekk first. The module does provide warnings here: These foes in sequence are EXTREMELY potent and may be just what the doctor ordered against really powerful PCs, so if you usually find your players yawn at the challenges presented by published modules. Start smiling. Oh, it gets better.


Why? Well, if your PCs are so insanely strong they managed to take them down…there is more coming. Níðhöggroth is approaching and interrupts the combat with Drittsekk, to begin picking off targets one by one – the dragon is potent (and THANKFULLY comes with a second, proper and mythic version for all of us who are not content with a regular, deadly iteration) and makes for the last piece in a delightfully challenging, very rewarding final encounter.


However, the PCs are still stranded in the realm off eternal ice…and the ice ælves are running out of options…and thus, the module concludes with an event that may well change the dynamics of Rhûne, as the PCs lead the exodus of ice ælves to Midgard, hopefully escaping the wrath of the nigh-unstoppable dragon…for now…and changing the lands of Rhûne thus!


We conclude this book with various magic items of ice ælves etc., faction missions for the power players of the setting and the frigus zombie and glacies vampire templates, which, as you may have noticed, are used copiously throughout the module.



Editing and formatting are per se pretty good, though the consistency-hiccups, at least to me, are a bit galling and not typical for Rhûne supplements, which usually are pretty good in keeping ås and umlaut-studded äs apart. Most native speakers of English will probably not mind, but yeah. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a LOT of gorgeous full-color artworks, though fans of Rhûne will know quite a few of them already. Still, we’re talking about Paizo/WotC-level art here. This is a beautiful book, which particularly holds true regarding the maps. Now, if we also got player-friendly key-less versions for VTTs included in the deal, I’d be 100% happy, but oh well. Speaking of happiness: WE GET DETAILED, NESTED BOOKMARKS! Yes!


Jaye Sonia and Mike Myler joined forces here to write a satisfying conclusion to the “Beyond the Glittering Fane”-saga. That, in itself, is already a feat – you see, ALL adventures in the series so far, and in particular “Rune of Hope”, should be considered to be phenomenal adventures. They provide a wide array of different challenges, breathe the flavor of the setting and feel incredibly…unique. Fresh. Exciting. The first three modules (as the arc has two different first parts!) rank among my favorite underdog 3pp-sagas and frankly, constitute one of my favorite adventure-series all year. The lack of bookmarks, player-friendly maps and the couple of editing snafus did cost them my highest accolades, but it seems like Storm Bunny Studios’ crew is stepping their game up. The inclusion of proper bookmarks is a huge comfort plus in this module.


Now, if you enjoyed the former modules, this has the same level of depth and feels like a consistent continuation, though its focus is a bit clearer; the adventure provides ample variety, though not to the extent of Rune of Hope – instead, it focuses on telling a tale where the PCs get to truly influence Rhûne’s history and its focus thus has a purpose. Since the module does have a few formal hiccups, I will rate it 4.5 stars, but round up for the purpose of this platform. And yes, this deserves my seal of approval. As an aside: If you need some threats and hazards for a REALLY deadly icy wasteland…look no further than this book!


This is also a good chance to talk about the whole saga: It is DEFINITELY worth experiencing! The whole series ranks among the most diverse, multi-faceted adventure series I have seen in a while, and had me flashback in very positive ways to non-anthology-Open Design adventures: There is one consistent, strong story that provides a context for diverse, amazing adventuring. It is my ardent hope that we’ll get a chance to get this series in print, preferably with player-friendly maps and one final consistency editing pass, for the series, as a whole, is phenomenal and indeed, top ten-worthy. Plus, I really, really want the series in proper print.


Anyways, if you can see past the glitches that can be found in the series, then it will most definitely entertain you and yours! The quality of the penmanship throughout is excellent.


You can get this challenging, unique adventure here on OBS!


You can get the two alternate first adventures, The Ælven Agenda here, and Into the Pale Tower here!


You can get the impressive and thoroughly remarkable second part, The Rune of Hope, here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.