Jul 222014
 

The Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Mythic Feats

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This pdf clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

In case you’re new to the concept – first released on April 1st, these horrifically overpowered feats are essentially feats on steroids. Scratch that. Know the Batman villain Bane? Yeah, they’re more like his drug of choice, venom, injected in copious quantities into feats to create brutes. Owen K.C. Stephens back in the day wrote “No one should use these” – well, people don’t listen, do they? In fact, I wasn’t alone in considering them great tools for legendary foes, high level bosses etc. Rite Publishing’s much-lauded NPC-series “Faces of the Tarnished Souk” (If you haven’t checked these one out, you’re missing something!) made use of them in some builds and indeed, they do adhere to a power-curve. A horrifically powerful, weird power-curve of dynasty warrior-like proportions, but a power-curve nontheless – and for some truly high fantasy games, they were just what the doctor prescribed. Then along came superpowered mythic gameplay and these suddenly felt even less “utterly broken” – “broken” perhaps, but still. They certainly did see use in some games in know of. Mythic = challenge accepted here and thus, we get horrifically overpowered mythic feats now – to teach mythic PCs (or Cthulhu-level foes) some humility.

 

What do I mean by this? Well, let’s take a look at the first feat, Acrobatic, as an example: Taking this feat allows you to roll a maximum of 1 acrobatic or fly-check per session, all others counting as 20s. You may roll, though, and on a 15+ on the roll, you may potentially stun non-mythic adversaries. Yeah, that level of power is what you’ll get. What about adding evolutions to ALL your summoned creatures, allowing you each day to select the evolutions in question?

 

What about a bleeding critical that dispels a target’s invisibility, makes the target potentially slip on their own blood or even blind them. Of course, there would also be a feat to eliminate all sight-based penalties ever. What about a version of expertise that can increase your AC to 25 + level and allows you to expend mythic power to have attacks miss you when using expertise. What about combat reflexes that kick in whenever a target is in your threatened area, even if the target already was there? Yeah, these feats fundamentally change some of the dynamics of how the game works, but they also make for exceedingly cool options versus players who think they’ve seen it all and get cocky or, on the player’s end, for truly high-level game. Yes, immunity to all missiles that qualify for deflect arrow may be powerful; as may be additional actions if your initiative is really high (a nod to systems like Shadowrun or LRGG’s Necropunk’s phase combat) – but know what these have in common? Yeah, they’re not instant-win buttons. Heck, a minor sorc-gestalting feat is actually less OP than the regular getsalt-feat and the massively reach-extending mythic lunge-feat is insane, yes, but unfortunately I’ve seen more broken takes on that one intended for vanilla PFRPG…so yeah, wouldn’t want that in a standard level game, but high-powered mythic? Well worth teh consideration, even if you don’t skim on the edge of power.

 

What about becoming “Uber-Mythic” (though that’s supposed to be the Ü-Umlaut, damn it…), treating mythic creatures as non-mythic? Yeah, lot of fun to be had here… What also made me smile was the take on weapon finesse – add str, dex and int all to atk and damage rolls. Why? Because I often complain about multiple attributes being added to the same roll more often than not meaning that the design is wonky or flawed…but that may just be the jaded reviewer in me.

 

Now beyond these horrifically overpowered mythic feats, there also are mythic horrifically overpowered feats, the latter being essentially mythic versions of the respective horrifically overpowered feats. What about e.g. powering the by now infamous “Denied!”-feat with mythic power in addition to daily uses? Yeah, Ouch. This may be a subjective impression, but if you were thinking after the first chapter, that there’s still wiggle-room upwards, these feats go there. Use mythic power as, literally regrowing resources for extra lives? Check. Penalty-less full casting action? Check. Mythic tier +1/2 level for gestalting? Check. What about the feat that literally makes you the first to act, always, existing only once per setting and requiring the former owner to die to learn it? Check. Mythic tier to all mental or physical attributes? Check. It should be noted that these feats can be considered a kind-of-appendix, since they do not offer the non-mythic feats they’re based on and thus require the previous non-mythic book, so that’s something to bear in mind if you want to make maximum use of the second chapter as well. But lists of feats come with handy tables of the feats and what they do – nice.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ easy-to-read two-column standard and the pdf sports neat stock-art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and unobtrusively hyperlinked for your convenience, with the latter ones I tried always working as intended.

 

“OMG, deez feats are s000 imba1111!!!! Can 1 uz dem???” and “These are what’s wrong with the game! Back in the day, we rolled a d1 and subtracted 10 to hit a Goblin and only did so on a zero!” are both wrong ways to approach this book, so let’s be mature and flat-out state this – these feats are designed for very specific circumstances and groups and do not pretend to be balanced. The book flat out tells it like it is and points toward an art that seems to be the source of many a table’s problem – player entitlement and DM stubbornness/campaign Mary-Sueing. So if your players think they have a right to use such feats…don’t use them. If as a DM, your world is so precious to you that you want to run your PCs and force your vision on how a world’s narrative is supposed to run on them…don’t even think about it. These feats and their power-curve require dialogue, an ability to maturely discuss them and decide which ones to use and which ones to ignore. They are NOT balanced with the core game or even mythic rules (though, mythic rules honestly lose any semblance of balance at the higher tiers anyway…) and thus require a mature table. Got that? Great, for if you do, then this will quite probably rock your world. Let me elaborate.

 

Owen K.C. Stephens delivers a bunch of feats that scrape the top of power-levels – and yes, they are extremely powerful, some even horrifically so. But know what they also are? Are great toolkit to stump the “seen-it-all”, an array of options for truly apex-powered campaigns that border on the ludicrous. These feats, especially the mythic versions of already horrifically overpowered feats, are insanely powerful and let the players (or adversaries) wilder in the power-realms usually reserved for demi-gods, full-blown deities and similar beasts – and as such, they do actually offer a superb addition to a DM’s toolkit to fluster these exceedingly powerful level 20+/MR 10-characters, to provide something truly awe-inspiring (or downright mean). Just bear in mind – each of these feats can significantly alter the power-curve and is at least up to a CR +1 template. If you bear that in mind and take heed, then this is a great offering indeed, providing some of the nastiest tricks for infinity and beyond gaming I’ve seen in a while – well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get this cool book of insanely powerful options here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Jul 222014
 

Mythic Minis: Feats of Treachery

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This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

This time, we’re all about feats of treachery, so let’s check this out!

 

All right, we begin this collection with “Betrayers” mythic version, which makes the attacks against foes you befriended is further increased – very much a standard improved version with slight mythic bonuses. Okay, but bland. Deceptive Exchange’s mythic version is more interesting, allowing for disarm/steal to accompany the feint and even replacing items in foe’s hands. “Disengaging Feint” as a mythic feat can be used as a swift action or as a standard action sans AoO, regardless how much you move through the threatened creature’s spaces. “Disengaging Flourish” works analogue to the previous feat and “Disengaging Shot’s” mythic feat allows you to add a dirty trick sans AoO with your shot – neat!

 

“False Opening” increases AC and makes foes falling for the AoO flat-footed. Okay, I guess. “Flick of the Wrist” is neat, allowing for sleight of hand to make drawing light weapons as free actions possible, potentially flat-footing foes. And yes, this one has a mythic tier-based per combat cap – interesting, if potentially problematic logic-wise. Why does the DC not increase for witnessing the trick/falling for it?

 

“Two weapon feint’s” mythic version allows you to use mythic power to reroll feints and sacrifice multiple primary hand attacks for multiple feints. The improved version of the feat allows you to sacrifice the highest BAB attacks to render the foe dex-bonus-less for longer durations, potentially even until your next turn – Okay, I guess, but VERY specific. In a lot of cases, I consider the trade-off not worth it here, though I like the idea behind the feat.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jason Nelson provides a solid array of different treachery-based feats that allow for some nasty tricks…while some of the feats herein did underwhelm me. In the overall concept, none of the feats herein truly blew my mind and while they’re not bad, I also wouldn’t consider them must-purchase material. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to In dubio pro reo.

You can get this pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 222014
 

 

Mythic Minis: Archmage Path Abilities

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This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

This time, we’re all about abilities for the archmage path so let’s check this out!

 

We kick this one off with 4 1st tier abilities – two of which will immensely help alchemists, with one helping with extracts and using mythic abilities (essentially fixing a GLARING hole in the base rules…) and a further one allows you to create better bombs. Spell Dilation is also rather cool, allowing your PC to make more or less minor metamagic-style forming modifications of spells. Those are cool. Detect Animals or Plants as an at-will SL, powered with mythic power, which is used to change the species-specific nature of the ability, though, feels very anticlimactic.

 

We also get 4 different 3rd tier abilities, one netting you a fear-aura when casting spells/using SLs, another increasing bomb-damage-dice and a third taking the cake, with the option to create even more impressive oozes (hint: There are two Mythic Monster pdfs to make use of!) – if you’re an alchemist. The final one makes your magical walls better.

 

The 6th tier ability is a godsend for arcanists, as it allows you to expend mythic power to escape grapple etc. via teleportation and for more mythic power, even potentially bypass teleportation-blocking effects – with concise rules, mind you. Neat!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jonathan H. Keith and Jason Nelson deliver here – the path abilities make sense in the context of the path and the poor, neglected alchemist finally has some valid reasons to take this path. This is a blessing and a curse, though, seeing that the majority of the content herein is for the alchemist. Personally, I’m a big proponent of the class, so that’s more than fine with me, but it might not be what you bargained for. Even if you did, though, you should be aware that the oozechemist ability is a reprint from Mythic Monsters: Oozes, Too and as such not new. Which brings me to a slightly unpleasant topic – I really liked this pdf and the options herein – what’s there, is argueably great, especially for alchemists. The one page has about 1/4 – 1/5 empty space at the bottom, though – space that could have been filled with more content. Add to that the cool (but reprinted) oozechemist, and this pdf, even for its length, falls short on the content-side. What’s there is damn cool, if very alchemist-centric, required even and would warrant a rating in the highest echelons of my system, but the relative brevity + reprint (which btw. eats as much space as all other 3rd tier abilities COMBINED) mean I can’t go as high as I would have wanted. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to for the purpose of this platform. Alchemist aficionados may add +1 star here.

You can get this nice, short supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 212014
 

Path of War: Supplemental Content

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The final book for the first “Path of War”-book is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD (leaving 22 pages of content) and is all about supplemental content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

After a short introduction of the topic at hand, we delve into new archetypes for the Path of War-classes, so let’s check out the Judge first, an archetype for the Stalker. If the name wasn’t ample clue for you – the stalker can be considered a blend of inquisitor and stalker and thus gains additional options to use via their ki pool over the levels of their class-progression: +4 to bluff/sense motive, detect alignment and similar shenanigans, +4 to a save as an immediate action and at 9th level, they may spend ki to change a readied maneuver for another one they know and have it immediately readied – thankfully with a limit beyond ki here, the trick that only takes a swift action can only be pulled off wis-mod times per day.

 

Judges also get judgments (1/day, +1/day at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter) – here, some problems have crept in: Take the “Bloody” judgment – The judge inflicts horrible, bleeding wounds that gush with the deity’s rage. The target suffers 1d6 points of bleed damage for 1+wis-mod rounds. Unlike the regular inquisitor judgments, this one is ACTIVE and, as written, can be read as the wound materializing upon pronouncing the judgment as opposed to hitting the foe with an attack. A clearly unintended RAW vs. RAI -glitch and nothing serious, but still. The “Deadly” judgment’s text is completely absent from the pdf. A formatting glitch, probably. The other enhancements are okay, though personally, I’d consider level 10 a bit early to make attacks count as adamantine, but then again, this s Path of War, so yeah – within the context of this series, it works – especially, since the archetype pays for the bonuses with deadly strike and the related stalker arts. At 3rd level, instead of a stalker art, judges may choose a domain or inquisition sans spells/bonus spells according to their deity’s portfolio. At 7th level and every 4 levels after that, the judge gets a stalker art or may choose the new final judgment-art. This one requires one round of studying the target as a standard action. On the following round, attacking the foe with a maneuver denies said foe the dex-bonus against the attack AND requires a save versus 10 + 1/2 class level + wis-mod to avoid dying. Yeah. Ouch. I know Path of War is all about amping up fighter potential etc., but insta-death attack available as soon as level 11 is…uncommon. While the assassin’s death attack has a higher DC, it also requires 3 (!!!) rounds PLUS a sneak attack. No way. sorry. There’s no limit on the insta-kill strikes for the judge apart from immunity if you make the save – for one day. This is arguably more lethal than MANY similar spells, declasses the assassin and needs another caveat – HD, something like that, even in the context of Path of War.

 

Blending and greater blending are replaced with discern lies and the ability to spend 1(!!!) ki with a martial strike to act as greater dispel magic for wis-mod effects that ALSO deal +1d8 damage per spell/effect dispelled. Come again? Yeah, the ability requires judgment to be active, but still – this ability would be strong even sans the bonus damage(or do I have to explain how to hoard ki?), but the bonus damage…urks.

 

The second archetype for the Stalker would be the Soul Hunter – these guys recover maneuvers via standard actions or via their soul claim ability: Up to wis-mod creatures at a given kind can be claimed – these guys provoke AoOs when withdrawing from the soul hunter. Upon reducing a claimed creature a claimed creature, the soul hunter immediately regains wis-mod expended maneuvers. See this issue? Yeah – epic fail of the kitten-test. Put bag of kittens next to soul hunter, claim kitten plus foes, kill kitten if maneuvers run out, rinse and repeat for instant unlimited maneuvers. Broken and needs a HD-cap based on the level at least.

 

Claimed foes also suffer from soulburning for +1d6 bonus damage, +1d6 for every 4 levels per attack/maneuver. Soulburning replaces deadly strikes and works like it with respect to stalker arts – which may be fine and all, but at 5th level, all claimed within 30 ft. can receive the damage of soulburning for 1 ki. No save, no option to negate the damage. Combined with soulclaiming’s flawed mechanics, that makes the kitten-test even more failed, though the other ki-based options granted are admittedly nice, as are the option hunting-based options to scry on targets and scent plus better tracking versus claimed targets…though at 12th level, the class recovers an expended maneuver when reducing a claimed target – I assume this stacks with all the other ways to regain maneuvers, though the ability fails to explicitly state it and could be misread. The archetype needs some work to properly work.

 

We also get 4 new warder archetypes, the first of which would be the Dervish Defender may grant allies their shield bonuses and is less heavily armored, granting int-mod (also vs. flat-footed) to AC when not heavily armored. This ability per se isn’t bad, though calling it “Two-Weapon Defense” when no weapon in the off-hand is required feels a bit weird. While the archetype gets a damage-boost ability for two-weapon fighting and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the archetype felt a bit weird to me due to the hidden feat-tax that is heavily implied by some abilities – the archetype gets no bonus-feats for dual-wielding characters – which feels a bit weird here. Warders and the action-economy intense dual-wielding seem like a good match (especially with light armor thrown in the mix) and the general idea of extending the narrow focus of the class is great, but the archetype, as written, feels disorganized to me – the dual-weapon benefit at 15th level feels disjointed from the rest of the archetype’s tricks, seeing they don’t provide any benefits for dual-wielding and indeed more feel like one-hand/buckler-style. Not sold on this one.

 

The Hawkguard may use ranged weapons and bucklers together and replace access to iron tortoise with solar wind (including corresponding class skills) – beyond that, a threat- range of 15ft. around the character, excluding adjacent squares is interesting, though it doesn’t make sense with context to ranged weapons/tricks to attack with them in melee, though that gets remedied at 3rd level, so yeah. 1/day extending the use of defensive counters to one round is interesting – one minor gripe being here that “defensive counters” isn’t a defined term – why not just call them “counters”? Also, I’m not 100% sure what “Extending the instantaneous duration to 1 round” entails – Potentially twice the damage? Doubled duration of detrimental effects? Using one counter sans expending it on all eligible targets for one round? Some clarification would help here. Overall, solid ranged warder, though in need of some slight rephrasing.

 

The Sworn Defender may choose specific wards to protect and may, a limited amount of times per day, intercept attacks on the wards and increase their AC and extend readied counters with a range of personal to adjacent allies. Cool bodyguard archetype! The final archetype for warders would be the Zweihänder (Just can’t write the umlaut-less version sans cringing…) Sentinel, who gets aegis-AC bonus when wielding two-handed weapons. They also gain access to Scarlet Throne in exchange for Broken Blade, may treat their two-handed wielded weapon as a shield for purposes of shield bash et al. The archetype also either extends reach by +5 ft. or make reach weapons work in adjacent squares and instead of aegis, gets bonus damage when using AoOs/counters. Nice one – no complaints.

 

Warlords get 3 new archetypes as well, the first being the bannerman, who gets AC-bonuses when using medium/light/no armor and wielding light weapon plus buckler/ranged weapons as well as three additional tactical presences:, one netting a massive +4 bonus to all social skills, one providing a fear-aura and one, at 17th level, allows the warlord to lend readied maneuvers to allies within 30 foot – which is cool, but does the ally retain the lent maneuver when moving further than 30 foot away from the bannerman? Immediate action boosts and bonuses for allies when in Golden Lion fit well with the topic of the archetype.

The second archetype for the warder is the Steelfist Commando replaces Scarlet Throne and Solar Wind with Broken Blade and Steel Serpent and if that wasn’t ample clue – unarmed strikes plus dodge bonuses make this one somewhat monkish, including some stealth-capabilities. Per se cool archetype, though personally, I think limited access to rogue talents/ninja-tricks in lieu of some more conservative warlord tricks would have made it even more distinct – still that’s just a personal preference here and won’t be held versus this archetype. The final one would be the vanguard commander, who loses solar wind in favor of iron tortoise, starts game with improved shield bash (and modified proficiencies) and gets a new gambit – when shield bash charging, allies within 30 foot can gain a 5-foot-step – nice. They also add cha-mod to ref-saves, mitigate somewhat ACP when in iron tortoise or golden lion. Heightened Defenses deserves special mention here – when using a boost, the character gets +1 immediate action to initiate a counter, but only 1+Cha-mod times per day. This can b a rather powerful option when played right and breaking the exclusivity of the immediate action as one of the most valuable action-types feels problematic. Also potentially rather powerful – free shield bashes with EVERY melee strike and EVERY counter versus adjacent foes. NOT a fan of these.

 

Next up would be 14 new feats – one making bucklers shield bash-eligible (also for the purpose of disciplines), one that adds shield bonus to ref-saves and touch-AC (the latter, I can see – the former is OP as all hell, especially seeing how the feat offers both in one package and ONE component of it surpasses similar feats…). There is also a teamwork feat that increases threat-range for you and flanking allies by +1, a further +1 if both have steel serpent stances activated. While these do not multiply with usual abilities and thus are applied afterwards, an EVEN FURTHER increase of threat ranges by up to +2 is something that won’t be used in my games – high-crit-builds already are rather ludicrously easy and this makes it even worse. Speaking of broken as all hell – Defensive Web. When refreshing maneuvers as a full-round action (lacks caveat for refreshments faster…), adjacent enemies CANNOT LEAVE YOUR THREATENED AREA BY ANY MEANS. Yes, allcaps. Acrobatics? Screw that! teleports? Pf. Withdraw? Please! A passive, unlimited refreshing can infinitely keep ANYONE in the area. This is better than ALL options to prevent escapes COMBINED. Broken as HELL and needs to die a fiery death, even within the context of Path of War.

 

Not all feats have issues, though – focus on disciplines, ending charges with strikes, temporary hit points for penalties to atk (with a one-round caveat, somewhat analogue to expertise/power attack) – nice ones. Ricochet Weapon, when used with a strike, nets the weapon gets the returning quality for 2 rounds. Serene Stride is also rather broken, allowing you to ignore movement and acrobatic penalties when moving through difficult terrain and even water as long as you have 1 point of ki. Victorious Recovery also requires some clarification -1/encounter you can regain a maneuver when reducing an opponent to 0 hp. What about non-lethal damage? Also: Fails the kitten-test. Does the feat stack with similar abilities, regenerating even more maneuvers or is the feat mutually exclusive? It can be taken multiple times – does this increase the number of uses per encounter or the maneuvers regained? Both? Tactical Rush allows you to 1/encounter move up your movement as a move action. Utterly broken, even in Path of War’s context and suffers from the same multiple-taking ambiguity of the former feat.

 

Next would be the Prestige Classes: At d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort-save progression and +8 levels of spellcasting progression over 10 levels as well as 1 golden lion/ two of disciplines s/he had access to prior entering the PrC, the Battle Templar. Now this obviously is a divine/martial combi-PrC and generally, the idea is cool. Reach of the Divine, granted at level 2, is already insane, though – martial strike = casting spell on self or ally within 25 ft +5 ft. per 2 initiator levels, even if the spell’s range is touch. Worse, the cast is PART of the attack. Now remember -that probably still leaves the move action, swift and immediate action after that dual assault. Furthermore, the ability, insanely powerful and utterly breaking action-economy also fails to specify whether the spell-cast provokes an AoO, though the wording “As part of the [attack] action” makes me think that no, the cast does not provoke an AoO – after all, regular strikes don’t. Even in Path of War, this is a serious power escalation. Other classes get tricks like that as a CAPSTONE. Even before adding further AC-bonuses to the ability at later levels. They also later get + spell level cast as morale bonus to atk for a minute and can expend spells to regain maneuvers – or make allies regain them. At least that’s probably the intent. The wording: ” and may expend his divine spell energy to recover a maneuver of this ally” could have been more elegant and sounds like the templar can recover expended maneuvers of the ally, poaching in ally’s maneuvers. Oh, at 9th level all nearby allies will have unlimited healing via fast healing 5. Whenever the templar recovers maneuvers (which can be done infinitely) all allies in close range (25 ft + 5 ft.per 2 initiator levels) gain fast healing for initiator modifier rounds. Wohoo – unlimited healing – never again prepare heal spells, channel energy next to obsolete, no more healing potions/scrolls. This ability, even as a capstone, would be broken and needs to DIE. It’s literally INFINTE HEALING. Compared directly, the capstone which allows you to sacrifice high-level spells to net allies healing and morale bonuses is ridiculously weak. This is officially the worst PrC I’ve seen in ages.

 

The Bladecaster gets d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB progression, 1/2 fort-save progression, 8 levels spellcasting progression, limited martial maneuver progression- notice a similarity? Yeah, this one is the arcane equivalent. At 1st level, the PrC can ” The bladecaster may select one arcane spellcasting that he possesses;” and cast that sans arcane spell failure in light armor. What is “one arcane spellcasting”? A spell? ALL spells granted by e.g. levels in wizard? One arcane spell-list? Don’t know, though I assume the second option… The PrC also gets a special stance that allows the PrC to sacrifice spells for bonuses – and this one is insanely powerful – damage-potential of the spells outclasses the benefits by far. Or so it seems – you get e.g. +1d6 bonus damage per spell level – of the sacrificed spell’s energy type if applicable OR, if not UNTYPED. Not even force, UNTYPED. You know, the damage-type you can prepare against? Now even slashing, piercing – UNTYPED: Urgh. What about spell level to ALL saving throws? 5 x spell level resistance to ALL ENERGY TYPES? Yeah, duration only scales up to 3 rounds, but still. (Don’t get me started with cantrips, btw. – the class ignores them completely.) Then again, the class gets a martial strike/cast spellcombat-like ability – as a swift action, usable 1+ initiator-mod times per day. Which renders me baffled – does this override the casting duration of the spell in question? Is it in addition to the swift action/action required by the strike? Does the spell still elicit a SR/save etc.? This ability needs severe cleaning up and gets utterly OP at later levels, when it actually gets a REACH. Countering spells via initiator-checks may also be powerful, but at least the ability works as intended and sans wonky mechanics. As a capstone, spells requiring an attack can be used to deliver martial strikes – even as a capstone in Path of War, broken – no more range limits. All melee strikes on range. Against touch AC. Urgh. At least the casting still potentially provokes AoOs here…

 

The third PrC, Dragon Fury, gets d12, 4+Int skills per level, +1 maneuver at every odd level, +1 readed per day at 3rd, 6th and 9th and +1 stance at 3rd level, full BAB-progression, 1/2 fort+ ref-save progression and is all about two weapon fighting – less penalties, power attack as if main-hand for both (or even as if two-handed), repeated counters – all mostly cool. At 8th level, the class gets a kitten-bag-fail ability that recovers an expended maneuver for every foe brought to 0 hp.(Insert Kitten-Bag rant again, plus nonlethal damage still not taken into account…). The capstone is cool, though – move 2x movement rate and attack like crazy. Neat capstone. The first PrC herein that I don’t want to throw into the deepest fiery pits of hell – this one’s actually cool. Nice!

 

The Mage Hunter, at d8, 4+Int, 3/4-BAB-progression, 1/2 ref-save progression and get access to spontaneous spells up to 4th level. Which they can cast governed by their initiator attribute. EDIT: Here, I had a minor error that has been pointed out to me. The mage hunter may expend spells as part of martial strikes to dimensionally anchor foes (which is nice, though aforementioned feat is better…), add damage-dealing dispel magic effects to strikes etc. The criticism of the former iteration of the similar ability still applies here. There is also a class ability/stance that allows the mage hunter to cast spells as a swift action as part of a martial strike (see criticism above) AND not take any damage when making a save vs. an effect that has partial effects. That is a combined mettle and evasion. Mettle was broken in 3.X and has, for good riddance, not reared its ugly head in PFRPG. This is worse, even in the context of Path of War. Nuff said. The capstone, which eliminates the option to cast defensively, is the other nail in the coffin for this class – Knowledge (Martial) DC 21 to realize it before hand? Nice, only casters don’t get the skill as class skill…Also: Hit point regeneration via SR and even granting temporary hit points. Doesn’t sound so bad? AT this level, your PCs will have At-will abilities, which translate, once again, to INFINITE healing, though this time “only” for the character, not everybody. Still, broken as hell, even for a capstone.

 

The final PrC, the Umbral Blade, gets d10, 4+Int skills. full BAB-progression. limited maneuvers and 1/2 ref-save progression and is all about a connection to the plane of shadow, increasing power of veiled moon etc. Which is kind of cool, though I’d suggest a minor re-fluffing here, if only to avoid confusion in planar environments that lock out cross-planar effects. Using wis INSTEAD of str-mod to damage is in this context fine with me -kudos here! What leaves me utterly baffled would be “Blade of Night:” As the umbral blade’s shadow blade becomes a conduit for darkness and shadow, he is capable of opening a dread gateway within his soul to cause this darkness to surge through him and through the open conduit that is his weapon. The umbral blade may charge his shadow blade with this power as a move action, and later when needed, he may release this power as a free action as part of an attack or martial strike. This hungry and chilling darkness inflicts cold damage, and Blade of Night is added to each attack that the character makes during the round it is activated on.” What the friggin’ hell does this mean? Does it change regular damage to cold damage? If so, is there a more convoluted way to say it? I don’t get, at all, what this ability does. Which is a pity, for the signature stance of the class rocks and is really evocative in its imagery, increasing its power over the levels into essentially an area, where it nets at-will blink (no italicization in the text), bonus HP and even turning incorporeal. One potential issue – the pyramidal way martial maneuvers are organized means that the changing effective stance level can lead to some confusion here. Better stealth, hide in plain sight and shadowy apotheosis also work. Over all, another solid, if not perfect PrC.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are worse than in previous Path of War-installments, with more glitches and rules-ambiguities. Layout adheres to DSP’s 2-column full-color standard and the pdf utilizes stock art that is thematically-fitting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, with one being more printer-friendly.

 

I feel like I’ve jinxed it. Author Chris Bennett’s last two Path of War-supplements on the Warder and Warlord were vast improvements and had cool rules, neat ideas, streamlined design. They were not perfect, yes, but still – they worked. And honestly, the archetypes herein do mostly a good job and left me generally smiling. Then came the feats and PrCs.

 

All right, to make that clear – I judge this pdf not by regular PFRPG-power-levels, I don’t compare it with fighter or, whatever divine being you worship or ignore, rogues and monks, but rather by the one implied by all previous Path of War-installments. The characters therein can compete with spellcasters on a damage-output level, while not suffering from depleting resources – which changes the dynamics of the game, yes, but it remains manageable. Most abilities are single target and somewhat restricted by atk, by a balance that may not be standard PFRPG, but it exists – good, that leaves SOMETHING for the casters to do beyond utility spells. The martial PoW-classes are a bit on the short-end regarding in-class variation, so adding archetypes = exceedingly good idea. In fact, I was utterly stoked about this release. Then I read it. So many failed kitten-tests. Infinite maneuvers. And then, the feats came. Want to know how broken some are? I can name HORRIFICALLY OVERPOWERED feats by Rogue Genius Games I’d rather allow into a 15-point-buy-low-magic-game than letting “Defensive Web” get anywhere near even a mythic game. This is not an increase, it is an escalation. Not starting with the caster/martial combo-classes that make the magus run to the next corner and cry his eyeballs out. Even if you just shrug at the power-level and think “Endzeitgeist is an idiot who’s just nitpicking and complaining” – riddle me this: Do you consider PrCs that can net a whole group infinite healing good design? Nope? Thought so. This pdf is far from unsalvageable and indeed, some of the content works for me and fared exceedingly well under scrutiny/playtesting. That being said, this is still the most flawed of the Path of War installments to date and has ample issues that require fixing. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

You can get this supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 212014
 

Mythic Minis: Feats of Protection

126930

This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

This time, we’re all about feats of protection, so let’s check this out!

 

Okay, unsurprisingly, this pdf offers mythic versions of the “bodyguard” and “In Harm’s Way”-feats, with the former not requiring you to threaten foes to help your allies and even use mythic power to reach them, whereas “In Harm’s Way”‘s mythic version allows you to use AoOs to intercept attacks, taking the effects upon yourself – this means no AC-tanking per my reading, though the feat could use some tighter wording as to whether the intercepted attack has to hit your AC as opposed to the one of your ally. While this remains a slight blemish, I did enjoy what these two feats do – i.e. offer a mythic version of the base feats that indeed feel distinct in what they do, not just like some generic mythified feat.

 

The further increased AoE of “combat patrol” doesn’t look like that much on paper, but in-game is rather significant – especially the further reach-increases with higher tiers. Personally, I’m not too big a fan of the first increase by +5 feet at 5th tier, but that may stem from being very conservative with reach and the like – too many deadly builds possible that way. “Coordinated” and “covering defense”‘s mythic versions as feats make for great defensive feats, with the former especially breathing the spirit of military units and scenes like the rain of arrows in 300, so yeah, neat.

 

“Defensive Weapon Training’s” mythic version allows you to further increase your prowess versus the respective weapon group ad maneuvers initiated against you with it, even allowing you to share half the bonus granted by the feat with allies. Favored Defense on the other hand allows you to extend the bonus granted to adjacent allies – there’s an insane component here, though. The bonus granted by favored defense is a dodge bonus and the ability to, upon taking the feat twice, extend the bonus over a significant range would allow a unit of rangers to stack it through the roof. Not something that happens too often, admittedly, but still – could have been slightly more elegant here.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jason Nelson has taken a difficult topic with defensive feats, mainly because the game per se isn’t that great in this regard. That being said, the mythic versions of these feats make sense, often vastly surpassing their base feats in tactical capabilities. While generally, teh feats are vastly superior to the base ones, they do stumble here and there slightly, even when taking the increased power-potential of mythic gameplay into account. Still, a nice, fun array of feats for a low price and hence well worth 4 stars.

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

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Jul 182014
 

Rise of the Drow

126800

This massive tome of a module is 494 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page designer signatures, 1 blank page inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages ToC,2 pages of SRD, 2 pages of backer-lists, 12 pages of advertisements (all in the back), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 469 pages of content…that’s A LOT, so I’ll better get going!

 

First, let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I reviewed the original Rise of the Drow-trilogy back in the day, and it already was a very good array of modules then. When this kickstarter happened, I was asked to be a stretch-goal and I agreed. I did receive compensation for my contribution to this book, small as said contribution may have been – an ecology (I’ll point out in the review) was penned by me, but I had no influence over any other part of this book. I do not consider my judgment in any way compromised and if you’ve been following me, you’ll have noticed that I’m just as adept at criticizing my own work, so yeah – this book, if anything does not get an easier standing with me. Still, full disclosure in regards like this is a necessity to maintain my integrity. If you are still in doubt, feel free to check my original reviews for the trilogy, posted quite some time before even the announcement of the kickstarter that made this book to verify this.

 

Next up, since this is an adventure-review, here’s the warning – the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.

 

Still here? All right!

 

If you’re familiar with “Descent into the Underworld”, Part I of the original Rise of the Drow trilogy, then you’ll realize one thing from the get go – you get your money’s worth in this tome. The AAW crew has NOT skimped on the art budget, quite the contrary – from a one-page panorama of the starting village of Rybalka to the copious amounts of artworks in lavish detail (and color!), this is more than the sum of its constituent parts – take the keep the PCs are to investigate in the beginning – its whole surrounding area has now been properly mapped and expanded to include some gruesome remnants of the ancient fields of battle – including a couple of rather deadly creatures stalking the place…Have I mentioned that chaotic remnants of magic infusing the area (in case screaming skulls and diseased, mad treants did not drive home the point that this is unpleasantville…) or the rather problematic new residents of the keep?

 

From a panicked “prisoner” (you’ll see…) to the exploration of the creepy place, the PCs have a neat array of threats ahead of them – and intelligence to gather. Rather nice here would be the module actually taking into account that the PCs probably will (and should!) regroup at the village sooner or later – if only to do some legwork. The exploration of the dungeon beneath the keep has also been upgraded with a much needed (and useful!) place – a kind of teleport nexus (hard to use, but players probably will find a way…) of a cabal of drow/undead, the so-called ossuary collaborative. Here, people knowing the original trilogy will look a bit puzzled: Yes, Yul, the nasty drow mhorg can still the “boss” of this dungeon – but the AAW-crew took one of my gripes with the original trilogy, the relative weak tie-in of the first module with the rest, and slew two brutes with one stone – the PCs receive powerful gifts from a mysterious drow female as they explore the complex – the lady Makinnga seems to be looking for an alliance and her extremely powerful items indeed are nothing to scoff at…plus, this alliance may be a shadow of the things to come for your players.

 

Exploring successfully the dungeon beneath the keep, the PCs are next off to a trip into the bowels of the earth, the wondrous realm called underdark. Or rather, in AAW Games’ setting Aventyr (Norwegian for adventure, btw.), the world called underworld – and no, you won’t (yet!) find Lethe or the like, but seriously – this is a world in itself. One of my grand disappointments with most 2nd and 3rd edition underdark/world-supplements of our game and, to a lesser extent, Pathfinder, is the lack of claustrophobia, of wonder, of strange horizons unconquered. The good ole’ Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide, one of the best resources I’ve ever read, is a rare exception to this – and the second module of the series garnered high praise from me initially, trumping the whole Second Darkness AP in one fell swoop. So AAW could have just left that alone. They didn’t – they vastly expanded the whole section. Not only do we get tables of underworld hazards the players will have to adapt to, random and special encounters to face while the explore the vast network of tunnels – this time, they get to save a dwarven caravan from drow raiders and then, explore the vastly expanded dwarven city of Embla. Studded with crystalline Gonjolas, fully mapped and vastly expanded to provide a vast political panoply for exploration, interaction etc. – all while maintaining believability. What do I mean by that? Fungus farms, trade routes – the city feels alive, realistic and still thoroughly fantastic. Embla was great before, but ultimately only a grandiose backdrop – now, it’s a vast sandbox to expand, develop and play in – complete with a creation myth, prices for beard-jewelry and trimming (YES!!! Now if that ain’t dwarven, what is?), notable NPCs, different stores, taverns, banks and even a recipe for dwarven bread. Now, if your players don’t bite, you can guide them through the story-threads rather easily here, but I literally, for my life can’t imagine a group of players who wouldn’t at least be intrigued by this strange place.

 

Beyond Embla, a short primer of some interest for the city of Stoneholm (tangential to the module – just there if your players want to check it out – now that’s detail!) also can be found herein. While in Embla, the PCs will have to thwart an assassination attempt on the ruling council of the mercantile dwarves (after they’ve been thoroughly introduces into the intricacies of dwarven hospitality) and then, follow one of three paths to pursue in the aftermath of the drow’s cowardly attempt at destroying the back-bone of the dwarves. Or at least, 3 paths are assumed and depicted – overall, the whole chapter is mostly written as a sandbox and thus offers quite an array of tough choices – two of which, though, have dire consequences: Returning to Rybalka to warn the village will see Embla fall to the drow and the PCs consequently will have to navigate either the ruins of the gorgeous city or avoid it altogether – sample encounters and the like are provided. A direct assault on the city is also possible, especially if your players are all about kicking the door in, murder-hobo style – and the battle indeed will be epic. The most detailed of the 3 paths, though, and the one the players should imho choose for maximum enjoyment, would be the one to Holoth’s back entrance.

This choice will also change the final adventure in the trilogy, mind you. But back to the exploration trip through the wilderness. This trip, in the original, constituted the very best in underworld wilderness I’ve seen in ANY Pathfinder module. That was before the addition of the dreadful underworld dragon Nidh-Cthon and his demesne Jorumgard. And before the addition of Venthin’s Hold, a truly despicable, extremely dangerous city hidden in the bowels of the earth, where no appetite, no matter how depraved, may be satisfied or the caves of the bat-like humanoids, the ahool. This would also be a good time to mention that the settlements get full settlement statblocks. And then, a gorgeous one-page illustration of a fungus jungle starts with what can be considered a herbarium of giant fungi of the underdark – what for example about a giant fungus that makes perception checks easier when adjacent due to its funnel-like shape? What about moonlight-like-radiance emitting mushrooms that imbue powers to e.g. reverse gravity to those drinking parts of the shrooms in alcohol. Especially impressive here – all fungi and molds herein get their very own full-color artworks (most including a humanoid figure as a frame of reference) and beyond these plants and wondrous hazards, mycelosuits are also introduced. These suits can essentially give you a mushroom suit that coats most of your body, rendering you weird, but also providing some very cool bonuses.

Plus: Seriously, how awesome is walking around covered in a weird suit of fungal fibre? Especially if the fungal suit constantly ejects tendrils and he like to propel you forward in e.g. forested environments? Oh, and then there would be the mushroom domain – one of my favorite domains currently available for Pathfinder. Why? Because you learn to generate explosive caps and kill your foes with force damage dealing mushroom caps. Not cool enough yet? What about entering shrooms and exiting through the same species? Or about the array of exclusive spells introduced? What spells? Well, what about fusing your legs with a mushroom and ride it? No, really. There’s a spell here that fusing a hopping shroom to your feet, making you ignore difficult terrain and nigh invincible against most combat maneuvers, but also providing a severe hindrance to your spellcasting? Yes, picture it. Glorious. Especially if you evoke carnivorous shrooms erupting from the floor to eat foes?

 

What about special weather conditions like fungi sweat and spore storms? Yeah – and then there would be the new, superb map of the fungal jungle and the already by now (at least in my game) cult mushroom harvesting mini-game, with a cool makeover. Oh, and the jungle itself has MUCH more going on inside as well… This section of the module was great before – it’s stellar now. Here is also a good place to note one of the smartest layout decisions I’ve seen in a while: Each of the 3 parts has its own, distinct, unique and gorgeous layout in full color. And I’m not saying the following due to Joshua Gullion (also known as fellow reviewer KTFish7 and a true friend) being responsible: The layout in this book is friggin’ Paizo-level, depending on personal preferences even beyond that. Each of the various styles used just is stunning, complements well the full color illustrations and is just downright gorgeous. My girl-friend is professionally involved in layout and LOVES what he’s done here – even though she usually has only complaints regarding my RPG-books. Better yet – the herbarium gets its own distinct layout – and in the context of this vast tome, that means if you just want to use the fungal jungle rules, you can immediately see where the section starts – flip it open, done. The same holds true for the 3 modules etc. – rendering this tome rather user-friendly. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I say that the layouts used here are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

 

That out of the way – I know what you want to hear about – the vast drow city of Holoth and what is going on there. Well, let’s start with a cohesive and concise gazetteer to the city – including detailed houses, power-structure, produce etc., allowing a DM to portray a very vivid depiction of the place. Each noble house (including two shadow houses)gets a full write up to inspire DMs further/expand the place, while each member of the main antagonist-house of Gullion actually gets a massive, full background story – making them come alive and potentially offering smart PCs way to use/trick/defeat the opposition. Speaking of which – roleplaying opportunities to strike deals with demons or devils, staging a slave revolt against dinosaur-riding drow taskmasters.

 

Chaos reigns in the city of Holoth, as the drow and the vidre wage war around the central fortress containing the dread artifact Vidrefacte – and to stop the threat once and for all, they will have to navigate the spider-shaped temple of the drow and enter via the temple Tolgrith tower. Here, the level of detail has once again been upped significantly – what about a 1-page table of quasi-magical herbs, all with different effects for one or 3 doses? Favorites like the mosaic tile golem or the book golem also make a triumphant return to form here. And the PCs better hurry, for each effect of the vidrefacte demands the power of souls to fuel it – and life is cheap in the underdark. Literally every day the PCs dawdle costs between 200 and 500 HD of creatures their lives…Yes, these drow are capital “N” Nasty genocidal megalomaniacs… If the PCs are smart, though, they’ll return to an alliance with the undead-affine Makinnga that, via her magic and items might have helped them time and again (and is a great way to keep players on track): She proposes an alliance to destroy the vidrefacte: If the PCs can get 3 personal items from each family member, Makinnga can use her talents to distract that family member…and delay the collapse of the tower upon destruction of the artifact. The PCs have to essentially create their own ticking clock in the end and are responsible for what happens – greed for magical items versus survival instinct – brilliant. And the PCs better damn well heed this advice and alliance, unless they’re buffed up and maxed out to the brim. Why? Because the tower and its foes are BRUTAL. We’re talking Frog God Games level, mixed with TPK Games-style boss battles. What do I mean by that? Navigating the tower is brutal in itself – but in order to stop Matron Mother Maelora, the PCs will also have to escape the friggin’ demplane of venom (now fully depicted and containing one of the most iconic boss battles I’ve seen in ages!) and final defeat the mastermind of the genocidal drow in a massive, chaotic free-for-all that lets them reap the benefits of their deeds and puts them in direct confrontation not only with the matron mother, but also her strongest allies and the dread vidre in a deadly free-for-all of epic proportions. A round-to-round breakdown helps the DM track all the complex interactions here and then, the collapse of the tower makes for a truly deadly escape – and, as for magic and the like – unlike most high-level modules, this one actually takes teleportations, flying and similar escape tricks into account and provides sensible explanations why the PCs should better damn well run on their own two legs…

 

Escaping from a city in chaos, the PCs will probably never, ever forget how deadly those damn drow are…and if even my players did so with PCs either fallen or severely battered and bruised, they still talk about the original module in reverent tones. This one is even better. So go figure! Different results, different end-game scenarios…all provided here…though, if you’re like me, you want to go for the high-level epilogue module next!

 

Beyond the epic modules (at this point, we’re on page 394 of the book!), we get the ecology of the enigmatic vidre, written by yours truly. I’m, of course, biased as to how this turned out, so feel free to tell me whether you liked it and why/why not! (And yes, I managed to point towards Rogue Genius Games great research rules in this one as an optional rule…) and also have a strange affliction and power components (inspired by Rite Publishing’s 101 Special Material and Power Components) in here, though you need neither book to (hopefully!) enjoy the article.

 

Now not all is great in here – I’m e.g. no fan of the new drow domain – I consider its crunch somewhat flawed – gaining sight-based powers for negative energy damage falls apart with undead casters immediately and the other spells provided here didn’t blow me away either – so this one is a definite “pass” for me. Then again, there is the gloriously whacky (or disturbing, depends on how you play it!) mushroom domain, so one flop, one top evens out for me. We also get a handy page of general drow traits for both 3.5 and PFRPG for the DM and then are off to the crunchy bits, i.e. the statblocks of the creatures and NPCs herein, provided for both Pathfinder and 3.5, each with its own index for convenience’s sake and easy navigation – nice!

.

 

Here, let me go on a slight tangent: AAW’s modules provide statblocks for two systems that are related, but distinct and different – and both have in common, that their details eat up space. 60 pages of 3.5 stats, 64 PFRPG-stats. This means that you probably won’t use the stats of the other system, right? Well…it actually depends. Personally, for example, I HATE how PFRPG weakened the Demilich. I’m taking the 3.5 statblock of that one over the PFRPG-equivalent and make a conversion of it – and having the statblock already done helps here. Perhaps that’s just me, but I actually like how this results in alternative builds available for a minimum of work. Plus: Take a look at the page-count. Even sans using the statblocks of one system, this tome still clocks in at a massive 400+ pages. That’s a lot of material.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch – while any book of this size will sport a lonely glitch here and there, the overall book is surprisingly error-free. Now I’ve already gushed about the drop-dead gorgeous, superb layout. I’ll do so again – It adheres to beautiful, stunning two-column standards and each of the different styles used is beautiful in its own right. Then there would be the artwork. I’m not engaging in hyperbole when I’m saying that this is one of the most art-intense 3pp-books I#ve seen so far, with quite an impressive array of “show, don’t tell” full-color pieces that are simply stunning and, at one glance, help immerse the players in the epic. The pdf comes with a vast array of bookmarks, indexes for statblocks and the different layout styles further help with navigation. Kudos! Now, as you know if you’ve ever purchased an AAW-module, the cartography by Todd Gamble and Jonathan Nelson, quite extensive and improved from the already great original pieces, is simply stunning. As per the writing of this review, I don’t yet have the hardcover in my hands, so commenting on the quality of the binding, paper etc. is not yet possible. HOWEVER, I do own quite a bunch of AAW-print modules and they have in common that they use high-quality paper, glossy covers etc. – production values of a top-notch level beyond what I usually get when purchasing print.

 

When I reviewed the original trilogy and when the kickstarter was announced, Jonathan Nelson and the whole AAW-crew told me, they’d make this book a full-blown 5-star + seal of approval beast. Big promises indeed and, to be honest, I was somewhat skeptical – the original trilogy worked well and had its glorious moments, but it also had some severe weaknesses regarding tying the modules together and some minor logic bugs. These are gone. Now you may not realize this in the beginning, with the start being rather slow and relatively linear, but this is not only a huge, sandboxy module, this is the most expansive underworld/underdark-sourcebook I’ve read in ages.

 

The second half of the “Second Darkness” AP, back in the day, felt somewhat soulless to me – yes, the underdark depicted there was strange, had deadly creatures and cool hazards and the finale rocked. But it, at least to me, felt like a big kind-of-dungeon. It didn’t feel like a cohesive, huge world, with its own rules, culture, flora, politics. Yes, it was a HUGE step up from 3.5′s exceedingly boring slugfest “City of the Spider-Queen”, but still – to me, it fell short: Of the level of detail I expected, of actual believability. Perhaps that’s just the scholar in me, but there are many components to making fantastical settings work and the underworld should elicit wonder, this slack-jawed awe, this feeling you’re not in Kansas anymore and have entered a world governed by strange rules and convention different from the surface world.

Rise of the Drow manages to pull this off. The AAW-crew has an uncanny knack for crafting believable, unique cultures, social norms and the like and the places and their inhabitants depicted herein adhere triumphantly to this tradition, with the guest-authors Brian Berg, Christina Stiles, Jason Stoffa, Joshua Gullion, Kevin Mickelson, Mike Myler, Owen K.C. Stephens, Will Myers, Chris Bayes, Curtis Baum, Justin Andrew Mason, Michale Allen, Rory Thomas, Todd Gamble and Steven Helt (and yours truly, at least I hope so!) bringing their A-game to the table and add their talents to the basic frame crafted by Stephen Yeardley and Jonathan Nelson. Most surpisingly here – the narrative cohesiveness of the voices of the narrative and the book – too many authors ften result in disjointed prose, something thankfully absent here. Oh, and take a look at this list – notice something? Yeah, that’s pretty close to a veritable who’s who of great game-designers, with several publishers among them.

 

As a vast module, Rise of the Drow manages to weave a vision of drow as efficient, deadly adversaries to be feared indeed, with so much going on, so much additional material and level of detail, that I can almost guarantee that no two groups will play this vast module in the same way. Want to go linear, run this like an AP? No problem. Want your players to explore and truly get into the meat (or rather: rhizome!) of the underworld and go full-blown sandbox? No problem either. Your players start experimenting with magical spices? There you go, full blown table of unique effects. In fact, the only module that came close to this in structure (but not in detail) would be the legendary, unavailable closed patron project “Empire of Ghouls” by Kobold Press, then Open Design, which reigned supreme since I managed to get my hands on it as my all-time favorite underworld module. Where I’m getting at is: I can’t, with all the modules I’ve read, for the life of me, mention a single underworld-module in any iteration of a d20-based system that would be on par with this beauty. Mind you, that from someone who is actually rather sick of the drow as adversaries.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, this book surely isn’t perfect. here and there, certain magic items or effects could have used a slight streamlining and not all supernatural effects the PCs will encounter have the crunch detail to e.g. dispel them…but personally, as much as you’ll be stunned to hear his…I like this decision. Why? Because thinking of 2nd ad 1st edition, there were so many cool terrains, weird magical effects, strange phenomena – all not codified with caster levels and the like. And honestly, in some cases I think the game is better off that way. Magic, when pressed in too tight a corset, ceases to be magic and becomes a science, something you can study and predict. Now, before prospective adventure authors start grinning: No, I have not lowered my standards, for where it is necessary, where it is feasible (i.e. in the vast majority of cases), the module actually uses spells, effects etc. and provides all of this information. And personally, I don’t think I need harvesting DCs or a check to but mushroom fragments into a bottle of alcohol and dissolve it. This beast of a sourcebook/module is exceedingly detailed, but in a matter that makes sense. It leaves room for the strange to be strange. And overall, the crunch felt more refined than e.g. the at times problematic supplemental crunch used in e.g. Razor Coast.

 

It also offers a cornucopia of uncommon ideas, one of the best final fights (and penultimate bosses), a glorious mini-game, takes the capabilities of the high-level PCs into account, offers freedom sans losing its track. And while I probably won’t run the saga again now, I will do one thing – scavenge the hell out of this book. The impressive amount of improved and new content makes this a great purchase even for those that own the original trilogy. I’m going so far as to suggest this being a truly worthwhile purchase even as a kind of regional sourcebook to plug and play in your game- you won’t find an underworld-sourcebook of this quality anywhere else.

 

I already went into the pricing (this book is not cheap), but honestly, one look at the page-count (even minus the statblocks of the system you won’t use) shows you why I still consider this great: To give you a relation – Razor Coast, another massive premium content sandbox, has a rather ill-fated, ineffective “build-your-own-AP”-chapter that confused me and almost ruined the whole experience for me. Said chapter of Razor Coast took up 100 of the 500+ pages and some less-than-perfect crunch ate more pages from the otherwise superb tale of colonialism and dark fantasy pirate-mega-module. What I actually used in both Rise of the Drow and Razor Coast is approximately on par, with Rise of the Drow even winning by a margin. So yeah, in relation to one another, I think the price for this massive, full-color premium book is damn justified.

 

So let’s sum up my ramblings: This is the best currently available underdark sourcebook to scavenge ideas from, a glorious sandbox, an epic module with a furious climax and extremely high production values in the layout, art and cartography-departments to boot that fuses the sense of old-school underworld-exploration wonder and level of detail with a pressing, action-paced new-school approach and manages to please both my old-school sensibilities and my craving for cinematic, epic new-school scenery. This is a massive accomplishment and the measure by which all future underdark/underworld modules will be judged. It also is a no-brainer 5-star+seal of approval-book and a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014 – no matter whether you run this or just scavenge its pieces: This verdict holds true even if you never want to run this and just take components for your own game. Once the print copy arrives, it will get an honored place next to my copies of Slumbering Tsar, Rappan Athuk, my Midgard Campaign Setting and Coliseum Morpheuon as one of the books that defined Pathfinder modules for me. Have I mentioned I really, really don’t like drow anymore?

You can get this premium quality epic saga here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

P.s.: AAW Games is currently running a kickstarter for the superb Snow White modules to upgrade them similarly . check it out here!

Jul 182014
 

Rise of The Drow Epilogue: The Commander of Malice

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The ultimate finale of Rise of the Drow clocks in at 69 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement (in the monster statblock sections – annoying if you print them out), 2 pages of SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 61 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

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

 

All right, still here?

The war against teh drow is over, matron mother Maelora defeated. Oh those villains…so high level, yet so stupid…Or not. Sometimes, evil mastermind have something called “backup plan”, as befitting of their mental attributes. So does the Matron of House Gullion. In order to defeat her, the PCs will have to track her down in her deity’s home turf, the demiplane of venom. The module kicks off with an interesting little puzzle to recreate the portal before the module kicks off – and it will strike the PCs as weird – PCs just won’t die. They stabilize at -9 hp. If they die and are lft behind, they return mysteriously, find strange healing draughts…but this all part of the master plan and is tracked by the DM via a specific table. More on that later.

 

The first arrival area is still relatively straight-forward, with a relatively simple puzzle to escape the section – which becomes a very interesting beast indeed, as Maelora escapes through a cube-like teleport maze full of deadly adversaries and no respite – to vanquish this extremely deadly place, its vast array of new creatures (which include btw. venom demons, colossal advanced spider zombies with more than 700 Hp and the dread spite spitters and venomwights…) and sheer endless onslaught of deadly foes, the only way for the players is to use their brains in a rather unique piece of abstract thinking – which personally, I love. Have I mentioned the fact that the venomous water slowly sears and saps away the PC’s strength alongside the war of attrition of the adversaries. It shoudl also be noted that the planar labyrinth, which remains rather complex, gets individual maps for quite an array of the rooms to follow – why? Because these areas are complex, as are their challenges – titan bards with bad poetry, cannon golems, Despairs (the remnants of powerful adventurers defeated on a plane foreign to their alignment – and potentially the fate of the PCs…), a mighty drow malefactor (see TPK Games’ great class, all necessary information included)/ warped-weaver in 3.5 and finally, vanquish Maelora, transformed into a spider-like dark angel hyper-monstrosity of no less than CR friggin’ 23. Worst stat: 20. Yeah, ouch. Rather awesome – mind-blowing bad-ass one-page handout-style artwork of the mistress.

 

The encounters have their own index and just about all new creatures get their own full color artworks.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color 2-column standard and the module come with copious pieces of great original full-color artwork as well a a ton of cool cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Stephen Yeardley and Joshua Gullion’s “Commander of Malice”, is a slug-fest (and no, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way) and an epic war of attrition – all those artifacts, items, wands, potions your PCs have – they better start hoarding them, for even with suggested WBL and smart planning, the module can whittle down the considerate resources of high level PCs. That being said, the module, by design, will evoke hate from your players. The relentless onslaught of powerful foes, the strange terrain, the slowly creeping realization that something is fundamentally wrong. The sadistic requirements to the thinking faculties of your players…this is a module that carries bragging rights for beating and is one of the most difficult modules I’ve seen in ages. The sense of accomplishment in the end will be vast indeed and elicit cheers and high-fives. Still, by its very design, this module walks a very fine path, namely the one that your players, even with the catch that should prevent premature death, should be frustration-resistant and have joy while slogging through (literally!) endless waves of foes. If they don’t have a healthy resistance to frustration, a mindset that they have to work for their triumph, then this is not for them. If they do, though, they’ll have a truly unique experience.

 

Now one thing you should be aware of beyond that – this module’s text is short – the statblocks, as is the wont with high-level modules, take up a lot of space and that’s not something to complain about. Still, minus the creatures etc., the module is “only” 27 pages long – which looks insultingly short. And I won’t kid – personally, I would have preferred more details, less war of attrition. That being said, you DO get your money’s worth here – the mazes are damn complex and actually *running* this beast as opposed to just reading it, takes A LOT of time. It took me longer than the Prologue and the first Part of RotD combined. So yeah – this beast is definitely not for everyone, though if you’re an aficionado of high level foes and builds and require foes to pit against the PCs but don’t want to make them yourself – even as a statblock collection and only to scavenge, this has something going for it.

 

Now that out of the way – I do have to say, I still consider it the weakest part of Rise of the Drow, not due to being bad, but due to having a much narrower appeal than Prologue and main book – this module is a challenge to be beaten and should make the old-school crowd and fans of truly brutal modules exceedingly happy, but if the regular RotD already tested your group to their breaking point, then be cautious – this is for pros indeed. I won’t hold it accountable for its brevity or its design choice, for it succeeds well at what it does, but I still think that a tad bit more versatility would have improved this beast. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this challenging, unique high-level module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 172014
 

Fane of the Undying Sleeper

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This module by Raging Swan Press clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/how to use, 1 page advice on reading statblocks for novice DMs, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

All right, still here? Via one of 3 different hooks, gathering information, one of the 8 rumors provided or the like, the PCs find out about a particularly nasty set of slimy stairs on a wind-swept beach, accessible only during particular low tides and sure to pique the interest of fortune seekers. Said beach btw. comes with a short table of discoveries to add further detail to the shore…but it doesn’t end there – the little dungeon than follows maintains this level of detail and even surpasses it by quite a bit. But let me give you a sample here – each room comes with a small description for the DM, followed by entrances and things players may perceive or miss, followed by read-aloud text and then features – from illumination, to terrain features and e.g. doors (including hardness/break-DC etc.) to dressings galore and infos gleaned via a vast variey of skill-checks, the level of detail is staggering and surpasses even most of Raging Swan Press’ other offerings. Throwing pews, looking at various carvings – there is a vast amount of mood-setting going on here that ampsup the ante of what to expect by quite a bit. Indeed, the best thing here beyond that might be the fact that the presentation is so concise you can run this module sans preparation, just reading as you go. I did try that and it worked, with one minor caveat, to which I’ll come later.

 

So what’s the deal about this little dungeon? Well, it once was the center of worship for an unholy union of sahuagin and skum, brought together by the mutual veneration of dread Dagon. As is wont to happen with many a twisted cult of different races and/or beliefs, squabbles broke out that saw this particular fane deserted and a sahuagin imprisoned alive – not any sahuagin, mind you – much like other creatures herein, said being had the deformed template applied and is by now a skeletal champion. The theme of encroaching doom is enforced by the exceedingly short time-frame the PCs have to explore the complex – the tides are rising! Much like Raging Swan Press’ “Dark Waters Rising” or 4 Dollar Dungeons’ superb “Horn of Geryon“, the tides influence the areas significantly and make the task of the PCs harder. In Raging Swan’s trademark ease of using anything they put out, one handy page sums up just about all the necessary rules for the DM to handle this situation with varying levels of water-height. It should also be noted that the focus is different here – where the aforementioned modules used tidal tracking either as a global changer of certain areas or as a timer, here, while also a timer, a particularly nasty skill-challenge the PCs face might actually unduly and hastily increase the hassle they face -woe onto those who face Dagon’s wrath! Exploring the fane doesn’t end their troubles, though, as Dagon cultists may follow up on their exploits! Oh, said caveat – the pdf also introduces spell fragments, essentially magic-themed haunts that may end up doing…something. Per se a great idea, but their integration in the otherwise flawless layout could have been a tad more easy on the DM, with the standard text being bolded so the DM knows where these things are prior to reading the text.

 

The pdf also provides the deformed creature template and 6 pregens for the intended level 3.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting, as I’ve come to expect from Raging Swan Press, is top-notch, near flawless. Layout adheres to RSP’s two-column b/w-standard and does sport a nice, if not particularly awe-inspiring map (no player-friendly version included), but the official homepage does sport the artwork as a hand-outs pack for layers – AWESOME! The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions – one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use.

 

Creighton Broadhurst, mastermind of Raging Swan Press, knows how to craft SUPERB modules – he has proven that time and again. This one is per se no different – I currently have next to nil free time on my hands to prepare anything, much less write my intricate, insane plots and thus, this module fit the bill. I tried running it and it worked exceedingly weell, with one minor hick-up – without preparing ANYTHING.

This, ladies and gentlemen, sets the bar higher for similar modules – go and play indeed! Now that being said, I do have some minor complaints – one being that the fane baackground story remains somewhat elusive to the PCs; slightly more means of unearthing it (and tying that to solving the module!) would have been great to see. Another minor gripe I have here is the difficulty, or rather lack thereof – the module does an exceedingly awesome job of creating this atmosphere of dread, decay, looming doom and finality via the encroaching tides…and doesn’t, difficulty-wise, follow-though…with the exception of the boss, who, for once, is actually hard and had my players scared for a bit. Now I’m aware my players are much worse than most gaming groups, but a more linear difficulty/threat-curve with a slightly less pronounced difficulty-spike would have helped the pacing of the module. My players stumbled into the boss relatively quickly and were shocked and then expected something EVEN WORSE coming soon…which simply didn’t. Now bear in mind, this is criticism on a high level. This module still had my players comment all the time how great the atmosphere was, how detailed etc. – they had a lot of fun.

But it still feels like this one slightly falls short of what it could have been – with a tad bit more rooms, more spell fragments (which are btw- also used in a puzzle that could be brute-forced in alternate ways…), a thread tying e.g. spell fragments tighter to the rest of the complex. Formally, this adventure offers extremely tight fluff and cool crunch to support it…just make sure one of your PCs knows abyssal, or much of the plot will be lost on your players. All in all, a very good module, a tad bit short of true excellence, but still a very enjoyable dungeon crawl, especially heartily recommended for time-starved DMs with a final verdict of 4 stars!

You can get this go-play module and its creepy atmosphere here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 172014
 

Mythic Minis: Hierophant Path Abilities

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This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

This time, we’re all about hierophant path abilities, so let’s check this out!

 

We kick off the pdf with 3 1st tier abilities, first of which would be the ability to cultivate potion-like plants. Unlike regular potions, depending on your mythic tier, you can expand these to include metamagic effects and increase their potency, but also tying them to yourself, seeing a rapid decay in potency upon being taken away from you. As living things, however, you can actually cultivate them and grow more of them! Quite cool, that one – not too strong, but very much in line with the trope of the wise, legendary herbalist that cultivates magic plants. “Spontaneous Deathbringer” nets you necromancy-themed spells to cast spontaneously and use mythic power to augment them – okay for necromancy-themed casters/evil priests/oracles. “Spontaneous Lifegiver” does the same for healing-spells.

 

The 3rd tier ability herein would be “Budding Branch” – and, as the big brother to the magical herbs., it allows you to grow wands as the branches of a tree or even, at tier 6, staves – once again with some unique rules to support the mechanic – beyond herbalist-checks, the plants require rather random investments of parts of the creation costs per day and serious amounts of plant growth-spells as balancing.

 

Now the 6th tier ability once again is something that SCREAMS mythic to me – you become a “High Clerist” – this translates to better leadership (or even mythic leadership as a bonus feat), decreased construction costs of religious buildings you erect (tie in with Ultimate Campaign – awesome!) and expend mythic power to call down a friggin’ crusade on your foes – depending on the mythic power expended, you gain even more followers, who may even, in synergy with Ultimate Battle, can recruit more armies. However, the mythic power thus expended does not regenerate while the crusade is in effect. Beautiful, glorious, epic – and one campaign too late for me…my last one centered about two massive religions duking it out. Still, reading this one made me grin from ear to ear – solid mechanics and epic indeed!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jason Nelson delivers. From the cool, shamanistic mythic plants to the solidly crafted, if somewhat artless healing/necromancy abilities to the epic crusade – all of the abilities herein feel worthy of being mythic – either by being high in concept, plain useful or simply glorious. This is what path abilities should feel like – beyond feats, beyond paltry standards and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get these glorious, innovative path abilities here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 172014
 

Mythic Minis: Feats of Grappling

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This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

This time, we’re all about feats of grappling, so let’s check this out!

 

We kick off with the mythic teamwork-feat equivalent of “Brutal Grappler”, allowing you to be even more deadly when grappling in teams, allowing you and your allies to benefit from mythic tiers and allowing you to substitute combat maneuvers for bonus damage of crits. Solid.

 

“Carry Off” allows you to better move targets hit by the snatch or grab special attacks – nice for respective critters. “Final Embrace” and its two follow-up feats makes constricting mythic foes deadlier and also allows you, with the improved versions, add the frightened condition to said foes and further amp up the damage output. All solid, like “Brutal Grappler”.

 

“Inescapable Grasp” is something that should have been houserules – a way to negate the annoying auto-success of freedom of movement and thus practically non-optional for grappling creatures beyond a certain CR. “Pinning knockdown” also autotrips foes you’ve pinned – which is nice, but opens a sort of bag of worms – I *assume* stability and similar abilities no longer protect from this one, though to me, getting them as a bonus to CMD versus being tripped feels *right*. So yeah, not a fan and some very minor potentially rules-fidgeting here. The improved version vastly increases nonlethal grappling damage and also makes it possible to temporarily negate immunity to non-lethal damage/DR. Kind of nice, but not sure whether it’s worth the feat-slot.

 

“Rapid Grappler” can be used 1/round and allows you to grapple as a free action when using greater grapple. Mythic power allows you to roll twice and use the better result. I’d usually complain about action economy here, but a) it’s grappling and b) the feat-tax of this one is already rather high, so yeah – nothing to truly complain about.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jason Nelson and Tom Phillips deliver a solidly crafted array of grappling feats, arguably for one of the most loathed mechanics of the game – and the feats per se are mechanically solid and well-crafted, yes. But they also felt universally somewhat artless to me – they are solid, don’t get me wrong, and they do improve e.g. serpentine grappling, giant flyer-snatching etc. But they don’t do something truly mindblowing – they do fix some gaps in the rules, though, and overall, I wasn’t disappointed by the pdf per se. I wasn’t wowed either though – hence, this is the quintessential 4-star file – good, but sans the spark of additional brilliance.

You can get this nice, short supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.