Sep 022014
 

Purple Duck Storeroom: Tiny Monstrous Humanoids

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This Purple Duck Storeroom is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Monstrous Physique II allows you to turn into tiny humanoids. Problem is, there aren’t that many. In fact, in core, there are none. Enter this book.

 

So let’s take a look! Gaeolings at CR 1/2 are small, furry beings that can spray blinding dirt and camouflage as dirt. Cool! CR 1 Mirelings are deadly, superbly stealthy, potentially degenerated/cursed micro-halflings that can’t be detected and are adept at vanishing. And you thought certain trap-making kobolds were a nightmare to catch. Seriously, a capable DM can wreck havoc with these guys…

 

Also at CR 1 Nimerigar are tiny, yet deadly warriors utilizing poison while hunting even creatures of mountain lion size and above. On the very disturbing side, imagine a combination of stirges and small humanoids for the Stirgelings – yeah. The iconic imagery alone is well worth the price of admission here and I *know* I’ll be using these guys.

 

Speaking of potentially disturbing – the Trowlings with their tiny greataxes and their regenerative qualities also make for a strange imagery – think about those guys, Gulliver-style, chopping to bits the tall folk… *shudder* On the more benevolent side, the Urslings might look like teddybears, but are actually benevolent protectors – think gummy-bears, the race.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column digest-style b/w-standard and the pdf comes bookmarked in spite of its small size – nice.

 

This is Purple Duck Games and author Perry Fehr at their best – no frills, cool and iconic creatures that universally have something awesome about them AND at the same time, this closes a hole in the rules? Yes, please. And take a look at the exceedingly fair price point. Believe me, you will not regret getting this one. Well worth the low costs, iconic in imagery, 5 stars + seal of approval. Two thumbs up!

You can get this inexpensive, ncie pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop for just one buck!

Endzeitgeist out.

Sep 022014
 

Mind over Matter: Psychic Warrior, Aegis & Vitalist

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The second Mind over Matter-supplement for Dreamscarred Press’ Ultimate Psionics clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page intro/ToC, 1 page “Thank you”-note and 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 22. pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

We kick off this pdf with new Aegis archetypes, the first of which would be the Bulwark Sovereign. The bulwark Sovereign increases size by a category when manifesting the astral suit and changing into the suit takes two full rounds, which is rather impractical. To offset that, the astral suit receives free customizations (hardened strikes and hardness, at 10th level reach) and imposes an additional penalty to stealth and fly. They also receive scaling bonuses to diplomacy, persuasive as a bonus feat and may dismiss their armor at higher levels to net allies deflection bonuses. I generally like the ideas of this archetype, though it does offer unfortunately some issues that do not tie in well with how things are generally handled – for example, it locks down base speed at 20 feet, when usually armor would modify speed – as written, this one could actually increase the speed of a character. The deflection-bonus granting ability also feels wonky to me and doesn’t really pay off – 1/day as an immediate action makes it feel very much like a one-trick ability and its conservative cap could also have used some more leeway, not beginning with the cooldown that leaves the aegis incredibly exposed afterwards. Still, a significant step up from the first Mind over Matter book.

It should also be noted that the sovereign bulwark gets a couple of customizations – and generally, they actually can be considered interesting: Immunity to the fatigued condition while in forgeform, for example, would be interesting and using power points to power some of these is a good idea to me. low-powered natural attacks while in the suit are neat, as is the *idea* to pay 2 points of armor bonus for a shield slam as part of a standard action or full-round action – cool per se, but alas, the pdf fails to specify as what type of shield the manifested effect counts and whether this would allow the aegis to make a full attack of shield bashes – I assume yes, but the wording is not 100% clear, even though it’s better than in the first book. Forcing foes to attack the aegis would be a cool customization, but should have a caveat that it’s mind-influencing. instead of damage reduction, one customization features an incredibly awkward wording about reduced damage. Where things get ugly is with the hardness customization, which is 3-point and nets hardness, making the aegis a true bulwark – which is okay, though its wording is a tad bit wonky. However, the customization can be taken multiple times and the archetype does not specify whether the free hardness customization granted counts as taking it 1 time, since the customization’s stacking is limited by class levels. Oh yeah, and at low levels: Ridiculously powerful. Now an increase in total defense capabilities is cool, but the customization that allows one to wield oversized weapons fails to specify what happens if the aegis already is wielding oversized weapons – double increase? (And yes, this IS a very possible build that isn’t hard to pull off, not some fringe case…) – compared to that, getting hide in plain sight at high levels and depending on the terrain feels lame – the clunky, loud, ACP-crippled bulwark won’t be doing any hiding ever, even with this ability.

 

The Reverie Templar Archetype for the Psychic Warrior starts all combats with an insight bonus to AC (complete with flawed formatting for such an ability), which makes no sense – it “automatically activates at the beginning of combat” and “Is lost whenever the templar is denied his dex-bonus to AC.” Dear author, allow me to introduce you to one of the most basic concepts of any combat in Pathfinder, a nebulous condition that almost never enters play CALLED FLAT-FOOTED. Urks. This isn’t even trying, is it? Sorry for the sarcasm-outburst, but this one had me yell at my screen. Oh, and it can be used only 1/day, more often at higher levels…wait, what? I thought it activated automatically? Now what is it?? Wanna have a laugh? You get that for warrior’s path. They may also draw enemies into psychosomatic combat, imposing a penalty on them. Want to laugh further? No range, no action type, no limit on how many foes may be drawn into such a combat, how many simultaneous foes can be drawn in, no info on planar boundaries/teleporting away – nothing. This isn’t even a skeleton of an ability. And honestly, I’d at this point love to say that this archetype has nothing going for it, but the capstone that lets the psychic warrior and all allies roll twice for a round on just about anything is damn cool. The reverie templar also gets metaphysical gifts, talents gained at 7th level and every two levels after that. The joke here is that some lack the psychosomatic combat prerequisite they’re based on…and that idea -wise, they are cool: Flying, making a leap that does not provoke AoOs towards a target…cool. But the execution. Take the latter example -you choose whether to “make a standard attack or full-round attack” at the end of the leap. The ability specifies that one may not leap past targets unless one has e.g. charge through, but how would the movement be resolved? Can it be stopped? Does a 5-foot step count as movement for the purposes of this ability, which prohibits other types of movement? And so on. Unlimited, rangeless, descriptor-less PARALYZE coupled to a will-save? Yep. Urgh. I’m stopping this right here and now before I get an aneurysm. This is so, so frustrating – the archetype has great ideas, is high concept, but its execution is almost painfully SLOPPY.

 

Onwards to Vitalists – the Verdant Metamorph must choose a special vitalist method and gains the ability to speak with plants, not at will, but at cost in exchange for collective. Yeah. Request Aid, Spirit of Many et al are exchanged for shape-changing via metamorphosis. Collective healing is replaced with plant-focused leadership. This is ridiculous. And no, summoning plant creatures for ridiculous amounts of PP or healing plants does NOT make up in ANY way for the lack of flexibility that actually makes the vitalist class work. This tries to be a plant-themed, druid-style vitalist and obviously does not understand what makes the base-class work in-game, what makes it be on par with other healing classes. The result is a crippled mess. And no, not gonna pick apart wordings. Gain a power? Wow, how cool. Wait a sec, the central manifesting coolness about the vitalist is that the class can switch through powers, so gaining a bonus power is nigh WORTHLESS.

 

The Vivere must choose the new Hypervital Method and suffer from a curse – this curse deals damage each time they rest (how does anyone of these guys ever survive infancy???) and for every couple of power points spent -the problem is – can this damage interrupt manifesting? Does it prompt concentration checks? Don’t know! The ability doesn’t tell. AGAIN. On the other hand, the hypervital method in itself is something that can be fixed and isn’t inherently broken or bad. So credit where credit’s due.

 

Now the 9 new feats also can be considered interesting in their ideas – but once again, realization proves problematic: Take Artful Opening, which allows an aegis to exchange AC for +1 AoO for int-mod rounds. Sounds simple? Well, 1/round you may hit a foe with two attack of opportunity when they’d otherwise provoke one. Yeah, if you can’t see the disaster waiting to happen – concentration, does damage stack? Are they executed at the same time? if a foe falls as result of your first AoO and incurs a condition, does the second attack hit at the same time or after the condition has been applied? Finest AoO-Chain territory and miles away from the system mastery required to properly craft it. Ever wanted to waste a feat on negating the +2 flanking bonus of foes while in a special trance that lasts only a precious few rounds per day? Well, you’re in luck, now you can! Want to wonkily calculate how many power points you have spent each time before resting and be rewarded with damage AFTER resting by the non-working hypervital curse? (Yes, seems like the damage is continuous WHILE resting as well, though the original curse’s wording is so botched, I couldn’t tell…)

Jamming doors via strength is an interesting idea – though personally, I wouldn’t spend a feat on it, but still, no complaints there. The other feats are nothing to write home about, mainly because they serve to expand broken abilities and yes, for just one feat tax, the verdant metamorph make heal almost as good as the base class…

 

Now I mentioned those nifty new powers – know what the one for the verdant metamorph does? Guess thrice! You’ll never figure it out! Close range, MELEE touch attack, for 1d3 points of untyped damage. For only 1 Power point! The best thing is – you can augment the power! Then it also deals 2 points of damage to you if you spend more than 5 pp on it! And no, no other additional benefits. No. I’m not kidding. The second power is a rip-off of contact other plane.

 

I’m almost done…so sweet. The pdf closes with mythic material, this time providing the 3rd tier abilities for mythic psionic characters. After the 1st tier abilities were broken as all hell and balance-wise all over the place, I wasn’t looking forward to this. AND BAM! First one is a winner, ladies and gentlemen!!! Can you hear the abuse? Yeah! Deal 10 hp of damage to yourself, gain tier x 2 power points. No limit! Ring of regeneration/fast healing, never run out of power points again! Forcing targets to manifest your powers seems like a cool idea – until you realize that the ability doesn’t specify whether it has to be the same target, same area etc. A Darth Vader-style grip would be rather nice, were it not for the fact that there already are copious rules to represent that, established rules with tighter wordings. Forcing your alignment on targets is just brutal – it cripples all paladins, antipaladins and similar classes and while mythic, is still much too strong. Most of these fellows require atonement afterwards if properly played during the change… Now one ability allows you to expend mythic power to use cha, int and wis as physical attributes for a select amount of time and, if you’re familiar with Ravenloft’s dream-rules, I like that. Thing is – the ability botches to make clear whether the physical attributes become you mental ones or not – it *seems* like it, but the wording’s so clunky, I have honestly no idea whether that’s the intention. It would utterly cripple all manifesting classes… Hive Mind control is cool, but once again, very strong, even for mythic gameplay. If a player uses this one smart, he’ll never have any issues… Breaking all non-magical objects with psyhic tsunamis sounds nice, though again, wording is clunky. On the other hand – why not spend you rare path ability for a neutered, limited version of speak with dead? Sounds like a good idea doesn’t it?

 

The pdf closes with 14 mythic psionic feats that include glorious mistakes like failing to mention the Minimum 1 caveat after announcing that something deals half your tier bonus damage What about getting a phenomenal +1 stacking bonus to AC (Mythic psionic dodge, baby – can you feel the blaze of glory? Granted, that one also allows to expend mythic power to gain mythic tier as bonus against one attack, but still…) Others, like Psionic Body’s miss-chance granting, while wordy and anything but refined in their rules-text, at least are cool and worthy of being mythic feats. What about Delay Power, which gets a cool mythic version that lacks any specification on how many words can be used max to make such a power manifest? Other than that, there are actually some gems to scavenge here…if you dare.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are…not good. Changes from 2nd to 3rd person, strange wordings etc. don’t help, neither do non-standard rules-depictions. On a mechanical side, this pdf saw neither playtesting not formal rules-editing/formatting – it’s essentially a total clusterf*** in that discipline. Layout adheres to a rather beautiful 2-column full-color standard with nice pieces of thematically fitting stock art and looks neat and professional. So yeah, nice one there! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and a second version with hyperlinks – nice to be able to choose which version one uses, especially if you’re like me and always have your mouse jump and select text while reading on screen.

 

Ahahahargh. The author has great ideas. Unfortunately, he has nowhere near the system-mastery to pull off the complex stunts he tries. A capable developer à la Will McCardell could potentially have salvaged this, but as written, this pdf constitutes a train-wreck. While the first archetype exhibited signs of improvement over book one, the same cannot be said about the rest. The overall feeling of this book is that it’s a rushed, unplaytested mess with balance all over the place that lack the basic grasp of what makes at least one of its target demographic classes work in the first place. Don’t get me started on the hornet’s nest that is the balancing on non top-tier mythic options; And yes, there *IS* a balancing there. Add to that the copious amounts of non-standard wordings, broken class features, untyped damage bonuses, abilities that scream “I’m broken”, ridiculously weak options and we have the very definition of an, unfortunately, bad book. The first archetype can be saved by a good designer; The latter ones can be scavenged for ideas. Try as I might, that’s everything nice I could come up with to say.

 

I’d like to close with an apology – I’m aware that this review is more scathing than my usual ones. It is like that for a reason. Problem-pdfs like this one take forever to get done and at one point, this one felt like it was punching me in the gut. My experience was somewhat like this: “Oh, cool idea!”…”No, this does not work at all…”…”Sounds nice…*reads on*” “And there we go, no idea how this is supposed to work, non-standard formatting, flawed rules language, next…” Now imagine doing that for HOURS. When I was done, I was honestly just frustrated – Peter K. Ullmann shows promise, has glorious ideas, but whatever the issue, whether it’s time-constraints, none existing developing, lack of careful reading – the end-result is just…sloppy.

And that’s a huge, colossal, damn shame.

Dear author, if you read this, don’t give up, but take your time, reread the rules, how to phrase abilities and learn their semantics and syntax. You can do it. Make your visions worthy and work.

 

I can only rate this 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1 for the purpose of this platform, the 0.5 representing the promise and ideas to be scavenged herein.

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Sep 012014
 

The Ultimate Gladiator

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This alternate fighter class by TPK Games clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page almost blank bar one trait, so I’m counting that one as blank for a total of 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Gladiators represent a melee-centric class loosely based on the fighter. They receive d12, good fort- and ref-saves, full BAB progression, 2+Int skills per level, but only proficiency with light armors and shields (not tower shields) and simple and martial weapons. It should be noted that the pdf also covers rules for gladiators using piecemeal armor, which is nice to see. Gladiators treat all weapons they have proficiency in as if they had the performance weapon quality and receive bonus feats at 1st level and every even level thereafter – these must be chosen from the list of combat, performance or teamwork feats. Beyond these, there is an option for bonus feats the class receives, the flexible bonus feat granted at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, which allows for the retraining of one such feat in a relatively short duration, but only if said feat does not act as prerequisite for prestige classes etc. For those not familiar with the retraining rules (or who choose to not use them) a cool ability, for all others unfortunately rather useless, but oh well – the lack of costs and limits mean that, provided he’s got the time, a gladiator may change quite flexibly over the levels.

 

Gladiators may also select from special talents, which are grouped in three tiers: They receive their first such talent at 2nd level and then proceed to get another one every odd level thereafter. At 7th level, tier 2 of these is unlocked, at level 13 the third tier becomes available for selection. Now beyond what one would expect, there are some of these talents that actually utilize some interesting mechanics with appropriate risk-reward-ratios: Take e.g. buckler catch, which acts as a disarm maneuver with a further +4 bonus on the roll and can only be used when wearing bucklers; However, failure at the roll means by 10 or more you receive a -2 penalty to AC until the start of the gladiator’s next turn.

 

It should also be noted that the class makes heavy use of victory points (see the rules on performance combat for an elaboration on these) in quite a few talents – expending victory points as a kind of hero points light version, the respective mechanics are nice and provide options both for regular combat and also in the context of deadly bouts in the arena – even defeated gladiators may thus avoid the fate of the thumb down-sign. The respective abilities cover quite an array that allows builds from crowd-pleasers and performers to ruthless killers and more often than not, offers iconic, cool options – shortening grips of polearms? Check. Sharing a bonus teamwork feat with allies? Check. Making attacks with bucklers valid and switching bonuses between light/one-handed weapon and buckler? Check. Subdual damage? Yep. Faster cover via tower shields? Aye. War Paint and all the tricks you’d expect can be found herein and quite probably, a vast bunch more.

 

Among tier 2 talents, knocking potentially foes unconscious with critical hits is a neat idea as well. Sundering via regular attacks also is an unconventional option, thankfully balanced by action economy and minor autobuffs for successful attacks via a combo point pool also makes for an interesting option. Daily-use limited auto-healing or death-preventing temporary hitpoints, DR-reducing blows – the amount of options is interesting indeed.

 

I am not a friend of the design decision to allow the swatting of missiles out of the air by succeeding an opposed attack-roll, since I consider the flux of 2d20 to be too big when compared to the usual atk vs. AC. The 3rd tier talent Deep Wound is also odd – treating all max damage rolls as critical threats can be cheesed rather easily with very small weapons, shuriken etc. While the vast majority of the multitudes of talents herein is awesome and cool in some way, black sheep like these unfortunately also have made their way in here and there.

 

It should be noted that the FCOs here span so much more than one would expect – a whole lot of ARG-races are covered beyond the core races – alas, here some glitches have crept in as well: Ifrits get e.g. 1/5 increase to movement rate. 1/5 of what? 5 ft.? of a transition of 10 feet? No idea.

 

We also get new archetypes, like the blind helm fighter, the barbaric slave who may wilder in rage powers, the animal trainer gladiator, the agile blade dancer, the gloryhound champion, the sneaky criminal, the huge beast of a man (gigante – damn cool!), the gladiatrix or the quintessential survivor gladiator, the immortal. Yeah, there are 4 more archetypes beyond those I mentioned. That’s variety! Over 30 feats, many of which center along the theme of gladiator combat, achievements and reputations and which really want to make you try those combat styles are provided and a vast array of traits, enough to supplement a full gladiatorial campaign, are also part of the deal.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the unfortunate weak point of this pdf – from formal minor nitpicks à la WILL save/will save inconsistencies in the text to some obvious rules-oversights here and there, some glitches have crept into this massive tome. Not many or crippling ones, but they are here to an extent that imho could have been thinned out further. Layout adheres to TPK Games’ printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes extensively and fully bookmarked and also extensively hyperlinked. Artworks range from neat stock I already knew to cool artworks I haven’t seen before.

 

Brian Berg’s Gladiator (with content by Skip Twitchwell, Joshua Slick and David Miller) admittedly hits a soft spot in my armor – I *love* the base concept and the execution, which could conceivably be mixed with e.g. RGG’s Talented Fighter (and vice versa) makes for a very versatile beast of a class that has A LOT going for it. Cool combat styles and iconic moves bespeak a love of the genre and the utilization of dueling/performance combat rules is something seen all too rarely. Reading this supplement really made me want to run a gladiator-only-campaign; The class with its massive supplemental content would support enough different characters to make the experience not boring or character-wise redundant for the players, which is quite a feat to achieve – so kudos for that. And yes, I *LOVE* this class; I *LOVE* the ideas herein, and yet, I can’t rate this as high as I’d like to – a competent rules-editing that irons out the few issues, a check t0o prevent duplicate mechanics that usually are handled differently – it’s partially cosmetic stuff and here and there simply unnecessary second solutions to already existing rules that, while not rendering the class bad in any way, still manage to make it feel slightly less refined than it ought to be. There aren’t many true glitches herein, but those can be found as well. Rest assured that this is not enough to net this gladiator the dreaded “thumbs down” – the book is too good for that. While I won’t be joining the loudly cheering crowd, I am standing here grinning and clapping at the performance of these gladiators – well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

 

You can get this cool class-book here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Sep 012014
 

CLASSifieds: Skinwalking Shaman

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This alternate class of the druid clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Instead of nature’s bond, skinwalking shamen [sic!] can choose a domain from a limited list, but only receives the domain’s powers, no bonus spells. Furthermore, the shaman is treated as a full BAB-class for a round in which he only attacks with natural weapons/unarmed strikes. This replaces nature sense. Instead of a common wildshape, skinwalking shamans learn to turn into one specific creature from a list of 8 different choices for 1 hour/level (which should probably be class level…) and at second level and every two levels thereafter, the archetype gets +1 use. Now I *assume* that both the daily number of changes and time limit fracture in as limiting factors – if the time limit resets after every change, it becomes quickly rather meaningless. A nitpick, yes, but still – clarification would be nice. On the plus-side, the lineages do come with suggested sample creatures to wild-shape into.

 

Now you also need to know that you can choose a lycanthropic heritage, which locks you down to one form, or go with a non-heritage skinwalker who can freely choose each time, but if you do choose a heritage, at 4th level, you are treated as +2 class levels higher for purposes of proper wildshaping. Now as much as I do like the base ability, it breaks one of the balance tenets inherent in Pathfinder that is easy to overlook – turning into small bats at 1st level allows you to bypass the prohibition against low level unassisted flight, which usually only becomes available a couple of levels later. Whether that is an issue for you (compare the flight-hex, which only allows for flight at 5th level, for example!) or not depends, but for me it does present a balance hick-up.

 

Instead of wild empathy, skinwalkers may influence lycanthropes. Instead of resisting nature’s lure, skinwalkers learn to enhance their concentration on new moons and improved bestial prowess on full moons – nice idea, though moon phase tracking may become annoying. It’s also a slight shift from the established design paradigms regarding lunar ties, which usually penalize characters at one point – though this time around, I actually don’t mind this: Penalizing some days means that players will try to avoid doing anything then, which isn’t fun for anyone. As far as I’m concerned: Okay, if perhaps a bit paper work intense. Now to pay for the increased physical prowess, skinwalkers only learn prepared spellcasting via wis at 4th level and only get up to 6th spell level.

 

High level skinwalkers get lycanthropic DR, immunity to diseases and finally, full-blown lycanthropic ascension as a capstone. As a minor downside, it should be noted that 17th level is almost a dead level, with only a level 4 spell gained – which, at this point, won’t impress anyone.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are solid, if not perfect. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ beautiful two-column full-color standard ad the pdf comes hyperlinked with the good type of hyperlinks for your convenience. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Tyler Beck’s Skinwalking Shaman is an interesting alternate class – one focused on melee and on paper, it doesn’t look bad. Where balancing imho gets wonky is as soon as you play an heritage-less shaman – the choice and flexibility are very strong, especially seeing how many animal abilities like Trip (Ex) or Grab (Ex) usually outclass the respective feat options available for regular characters. Add to that the nerfed, but not neutered spellcasting and the full BAB when in beast form and we have a class that is too strong. Think pouncing barbarian with spellcasting. Yeah, you get why I consider this one too strong. I’ve seen what claw/claw/bite full BAB-characters do with opposition, even sans animal bonus abilities. Let me tell you: Not pretty. And yes, claw, claw, bite doesn’t work easily here, but the animal abilities do somewhat offset that…AND you can get claws and bites via feats and races… So personally, I think this class is too strong for most groups. Then again, it is not utterly broken and while some abilities could use clarification, the overall writing is relatively solid.

 

My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform due to the low price and the fact that for some groups, this will work.

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 292014
 

And now for something completely different:

 

As you may have noticed, I read *A LOT* of roleplaying products in my function as a reviewer. The logical conclusion of this vast amount of material is that my campaign is suffused with unconventional races, classes, monsters, feats – you name it.

 

My players see a lot of weird classes in playtesting and are infinitely patient with my constantly refreshing pool of options that I throw at them. One of the issues I have with many playtesting practices is that they happen in a vacuum – that way you can check math, sure. But actually *playing* the classes is where the glitches show or where a one-dimensional focus becomes apparent. A class that can’t do anything worthwhile in non-combat becomes significantly less enticing. Hence, they have to put up with a lot of playtesting scenarios.

It is no surprise then, that a *LOT* of great 3pp classes have and continue to enrich my player’s gaming experience. From Rogue Genius Games Talented classes, to Dreamscarred Press’ Psionics, Kobold Press’s New Path-classes or Radiance House’s Pact Magic and infinitely more – there are many cool options to which my players have been exposed. Then, one fine day, one guy called Bradley Crouch started making truly “advanced” classes – highly customizable and a tad bit weird, with their own, strange systems and unique tricks.

 

Little did I know that playtesting was about to get more complex for me and my group. Take the Ethermancer, perhaps the best warlock-class currently available for any d20-based system: When we tested that guy, I was stunned to see the class actually work exceedingly well, in spite of its constantly refreshing mana-style pool. Gone were the “nuke and cover”- evocation overkills and in game, it proved to be exceedingly fun. So fun that one of my players went for the class for the campaign.

Over the course of the following weeks of gaming, he enjoyed the class enough to write an optimization guide for the beast. If you want to have this pdf, just drop me a line via endzeitgeist.com’s contact-tab and I’ll send it to you! Alternatively, you can check it here by simply clicking!

 

That has never happened before. The level of commitment was interesting and so, I took a look at the system, started tinkering and experimenting with ideas.

Cut to some weeks later and a lot of exchanged e-mails about ideas on how to file off some rough patches, making some options more viable etc. – and suddenly, Bradley asked me whether I’d be game for a kickstarter that expands the options of three cool classes and their unique systems that have been enriching my game. I said immediately “yes.”

 

In case you’re wondering whether this book will be worth it, here are the reviews of all the constituent magic systems, all of which are greatly enhanced with new material galore:

Truename Magic

Ether Magic  (& its first expansion)

Composition Magic (& its first expansion)

 

Now 2 of these guys are Candidates for my Top Ten of 2014. Yes, that good. Even before expansions and further streamlining.

The resulting book is live, progress on each class is fast and thorough and this book will be glorious! So if you will, drop in and take a look – and if you’re looking for balanced, cool alternate systems, a Tome of Magic that actually works – well, here you go!

 

Click here to go to the Strange Magic Kickstarter Page.

 

Next week, I’ll talk about some of the cool things I’ve got up my sleeve for this project and explain the design intent behind one of the classes, the etherslinger!

 

See you then!

 Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 292014
 

B18: Three Faces of the Muse

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This module clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Before we begin, I should mention that this is an adventure review and as such contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

 

All right, still here? Okay, first of all, all you history and art-buffs out there, especially those with some knowledge in Renaissance art and the greats will have a field day here: Imagine a vast cathedral, where an artist called Michello, known for his superb magical crafting prowess died while making his epic fresco. Remind you of something? Yeah.

 

Now in a fantasy world, that wouldn’t be too big of an issue – alas, the cathedral has since been haunted by strange phenomena and the artist’s soul remains lost. Enter the PCs, as they explore the massive cathedral – fully mapped and coming with player-friendly maps, btw. And these renaissance-style drawings reminiscent in style and execution of DaVinci’s famous drawings are simply AWESOME, even for the high standards of AAW Games.

 

Now while the goal is clearly defined in the resuscitation of Michello, in order to succeed, the PCs will have to brave the cathedral, which proves to be surprisingly deadly – choirs of madness-inducing allips (complete with sample insanities) and various, cool foes make for a challenging if not exceedingly lethal first part. Where the module becomes thoroughly awesome is with the second act – turns out, an asura called Aprame-Vara-Dharme, muse of Michello, has (kind of) claimed the artist’s soul. Via some detective work and clues, the PCs will find that taking the pigments and completed brush of Michello to finish the fresco.

 

Upon completion, the PCs have to venture into the thus opened demiplane in one of the most iconic scenes I’ve read in a while and brave the dangers of the Elysian fields and vanquish diverse, weird threats and finally the asura to free the soul of Michello. The module also provides an xp-per-encounter run-down and a new item as well as statblocks for both D&D 3.5 and PFRPG for the challenges herein.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead, gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, testament to Joshua Gullion’s prowess and talents – they will be sorely missed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the cartography by author Michael Allen is superb and fits the module’s theme.

 

Wow. Even by AAW Games’ standards, this module is one glorious blast – the encounters are inspired, the theme is uncommon, the hints and nudges towards real life are there, but unobtrusive and not distracting at all and the added twist of the fate of Michello and the cool villain make for an overall cool experience. Now if you’ve read “Gallery of Evil” – this is essentially superior in just about every way. It’s smarter, the encounters are more diverse and the second act is just weird in all the right ways. Author Michael Allen delivers in spades here – this is a great module and worth every cent. We need more unique modules of this quality – 5 stars + seal of approval: A module not only for art and history buffs, but also for everyone who looks for a thematic change of pace and truly iconic imagery.

You can get this evocative, cool module here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 292014
 

Paladins of Porphyra

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This supplement clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

In Porphyra, paladins are servants of the NewGods and thus, we get archetypes for specific deities – Aleria, the love of life, for example, gets a paladin that receives an modified steed that is under constant pass without a trace, may speak to animals and recieves at higher levels an aura that severely penalizes all melee attacks executed nearby her – including her own. Surprisingly cool one! Codionic Knights of Gerana are more martial and inclined towards intimidation, not diplomacy. They also may shield others and partially replace mercies with power attack and cleave and gets a menacing aura at higher levels. Once again, nice.

 

Ithreia’s Order of the Gyrfalcon (which strangely lists a patron-prerequisite the former two entries lacked) learn to deal cold damage via lay on hands (tied to uses per day and in damage-potential, to class level) and generally can be considered a more aquatic type of paladin. Solid. Now antipaladins following the apocalyptic deity Mâl receive a concentration-disrupting anti-arcane aura and sicken foes hit by their weapons and communicate with just about everything -to corrupt it. Again, neat. The Dreamcatchers of Neria become immune to illusions at 2nd level – the ability can be suppressed as a swift action. *sigh* To what does this immunity extend? Simply seeing through everything? Does it require interactions? Only extend to spells cast upon the paladin? Does e.g. mirror image work against the paladin? Even in exchange for divine grace, potentially a VERY powerful ability that imho needs further clarification. Apart from that, the archetype’s prophecy/dream-focus is neat.

 

Rajuk Amon-Gore’s Deathdancers gets bonus feats and command undead and at high levels dance of thousand cuts as a spell-like ability. Toma Thule’s Darksiegers don’t get detect evil and replace smite with a constant to atk/damage-bonus and receive bonus feats instead of mercies and get improved defensive fighting. Rules that align these paladins with the unorthodox paladin-rules from “Strategists & Tacticians” are also provided.

 

Next would be a total of 7 oaths – and these are interesting: What about an oath TO addiction for antipaladins that results in a poisonous aura and resistance to harmful substances? An anti-chaos oath? An oath that makes an antipaladin a herald of conflagration and fire, allowing you to radiate damaging heat? An oath that makes you a herald of light? One against deforestation (which is replete with roleplaying potential galore) – including the ability to quench fires and blunt weapons? Sons of Kaliban that swear the Oath of Submersion can be considered somewhat like the folk from the iron isles in “A Song of Ice and Fire”, only with added swim speed and the deadly power to smite land-dwellers. Antipaladins of Korufo the Shadow may misdirect, blur and are masters of subterfuge.

 

We also get two new spells, one to detect faithful and one to imbue others with addictions (nasty!) – and we also get a new drug, the dread daemon seed as well as level 9 paladin and a sample level 8 antipaladin. As a nitpick – both miss their CR-ratings. As icing on the fluff, we get two awesome battle-hymns – the Dirge of the Hands of Doom and the Song of the Righteous Warriors – all lyrics ready to recite. Two thumbs up for this cool fluff!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can still be considered good, but aren’t perfect -I noticed a couple of minor glitches, but no significant ones. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested, extensive bookmarks.

 

Perry Fehr is a wildcard author for me – he can write great fluff, but his crunch fluctuates wildly between the awesome and the sloppy. I’m not sure whether it’s due to a daily shape of author and editor/developer or some other weird phenomenon, but that’s irrelevant anyways. What I’m trying to say is – I did not expect to be wowed by this book. And yes, the abilities of the paladins are a bit on the conservative side here, but the wording of the crunch is actually solid, really solid. The same holds true for the oaths – and all the rest herein. The oaths are evocative and fill important niches, the sample characters are nice and the hymns are the icing on the cake. While the minor glitches would usually make me good for a 4 star rating, the great fluff of the songs and the mostly awesome oaths just wouldn’t make that a just verdict. hence, I will settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 – author Perry Fehr delivers here.

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 292014
 

The Blessed and the Hunted: The Story of the Usa-Chan

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This little supplement by Storm Bunny Studios is 4 pages long, 3/4 of a page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 3 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We kick off this little pdf with a short origin-myth of the new race of the Usa-Chan – who are essentially bunny people in the style of Usagi Yojinbo (and if that does not ring any bells, google it!) and ties it neatly in with an alternate origin legend for the kitsune.

 

Usa-Chan get their own subtype, +2 Dex and Str, -2 Int, +2 to climb, -2 Disable Device & Sleight of Hand, +2 to initiative and run as a bonus feat, get a base speed of 40 feet, always treat as having a running starts, may move freely through any undergrowth and 1/day as an immediate action, these guys can enter a rage for +2 to Str and Con and will saves, -1 to AC, maintained for con-rounds.

 

As far as FCOs are concerned, we get those for barbarian, cleric, druid, monk, ranger and oracle and we also get alternate racial traits: Spell-like abilities (disrupt undead, guidance, stabilize, protection from evil OR detect poison, know direction, longstrider, pass without a trace) 1/day, +2 to acrobatics, no penalty to AC when raging, better shadow-bloodline/darkness domain cha-score/CL, two primary natural attacks at 1d3 or +4 to CMD versus bull rush and trip.

 

As a variant, some Usa-Chan are born with Black Furs – these are small, get +2 Cha and Wis, -2 Con, chooses two skills to always be class skills AND gets +3 to both, +2 to initiative and run as a bonus feat, +2 to climb, -2 to Sleight of Hand and Disable Device, normal speed AND burrow speed 20 feet and can move unimpeded through undergrowth. They also get their own FCOs for the cleric, monk, oracle, rogue, sorceror and witch-classes.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to ana easy-to-read, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with a drop-dead gorgeous piece of line-drawing b/w that is almost worth the price alone. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, but doesn’t need them at this length. The pdf comes with a second, hyperlinked version that sports the good, unobtrusive type of hyperlinks.

 

This is one of *those* races. On the one hand, the writing by Cleveland English and Jaye Sonia is awesome, the races are high-concept and cool. But damn, are they BLOATED AND OVERPOWERED. These guys mop the floor with just about all ARG-races. Yes, that bad. They are geared towards classes in stronger ways than the races of Rhûne (and this setting includes races that are literally made for certain purposes!) and overall feel like a typical Mary-Sue-race. One has this concept one loves, adores and all the cool stuff a character of this race ought to be able to do. Well, it’s NOT the job of a race to do that. What can’t be done via classes, feats etc. – THAT is what a race should do. And this one fails. The power is beyond tieflings, aasimar etc. – far beyond them. The superb mobility (Hey, let’s have them have the most useful power of a friggin’ druid in wilderness at low levels and devalue this class choice!), burrow speed at first level. URGH. Remember, that means EVERYONE of the Usa-Chan can do these things. To quote Sam & Max: Let’s all bow to our lagomorph overlords.

Another thing that irks me to no end would be the lack of an age, height and weight table: How old do these guys get? What branches can sustain them? Don’t know. Finally, if you’re halfway adept at Japanese, you’ll know that -chan as a suffix denotes something cute and is usually used in a patronizing way or to refer to e.g. a cute girl, a sister etc. For guys, you’d usually use -kun to achieve the same end, unless you really wanted to emasculate them. I know that in my game, my players would never, ever stop complaining about this, but let’s face it – in the presence of these overpowered races, that is a nitpick, though one I felt compelled to mention since some people might be annoyed to no end by it.

 

Personally, I only got fluff out of this book. I wanted to like it and ended up loathing the overpowered crunch. I’d strongly discourage all but the races-wise most high-powered games from using these fellows. The fluff is glorious, though, as are the production values and the artwork and bang-for-buck-ratio save this from being trashed to smithereens by yours truly. Since I have to take all of these into account as well as the possibility that you just might happen to be looking for this insane power-level, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded slightly up by a margin to 3. If you want to get this for a balanced race and not the fluff, though – steer clear.

You can this glorious fluff (or for high-powered campaigns) here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Aug 272014
 

I lost a friend today. Joshua Gullion, a pillar of the Pathfinder community, has passed away.

 

I met Joshua, like many others, on the Paizo-boards in my function as a reviewer under his handle KTFish7 and when my health faltered, he kept us all informed with great reviews.  Unlike others, though, we started talking, sharing experiences and he always was a pleasant, magnificent person in his interactions with me. I was extremely glad when he moved on from reviewing to doing the layout for AAW Games and you can see the positive impact he had there.

Thanks to him, I got to know Jonathan Nelson, who is one of the finest people in the industry and someone I’m glad to call “friend”.

 

But Joshua did more than that.

 

When I heard he had a stroke, I buckled up and called him in hospital. We had never spoken to each other before and talked for HOURS. I will eternally be grateful for this call – beyond him asking me to join one of the most fun design experiences I’ve ever been in with Rise of the Drow, his positivity and can-do attitude, the utter lack of whining and complaining – that is what inspired me. And I mean “inspired” in the truest sense of the word. That’s the type of person Joshua was.

 

Joshua has changed my life for the better with his joy, his friendliness and his honesty. He has taken more bitterness and cynicism off my shoulders in a scant few hours than I could deem possible. I am not exaggerating when I say that I’d be less of a man today without him.

 

It is my eternal regret that my financial situation never permitted me to fly to him over the pond and roll some dice with him. I can hardly fathom how hard to bear this loss must be for everyone who had the pleasure and privilege to have known Joshua better than I was blessed to.

 

Joshua’s ability to create joy lives on in his craft, his books and friends. It suffuses the pages and to know that one’s legacy survives, that it continues to bring to joy to people world-wide, that’s something glorious.

 

Joshua, I told you in private what you did for me. I’m not good at being emotional. Rest in Peace, my friend. My condolences go out to all those blessed to have had Joshua in their lives. Let’s roll some dice in his honor and may what he has wrought in us never come undone, may his spirit live on.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 272014
 

Prepare for War: Basic Training

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This module clocks in at 42 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So this module is unconventional – based on Amora Game’s Player’s Guide, the PCs are regular average Joes and Janes of the Thaddean Empire who have just enlisted in the military to serve their grand empire. Hence, the structure of this module diverges vastly from what one would expect and slaughters quite an array of sacred cows:

 

first of all, it uses RGG’s apprentice-level character rules (and provides all necessary bits and pieces) – this means you start this module as a level 0 nobody. Secondly, and more importantly – this module is by its very nature necessarily a railroad. Think of basic military boot-camp-style intense training and you’re pretty close to what the PCs will go through in here – this is a railroad by design and the restricted choices indeed are part of the module’s very design.

 

So I’m not really spoiling the basics when I’m giving you a brief synopsis of the plot and tell you that the PCs will have to do push-ups, properly reply to military naming structure and conditioning. The training by Sgt. Lithgow in the notorious Compound 13 (fully mapped, btw.) includes not only checking the knowledge of the empire’s religion, but also obstacle courses and climbing walls – most of which btw. are depicted in complex skill challenges. Now the interesting thing here would be, that special achievements can result in specific traits – doing well at these challenges will reflect in your PC’s capabilities. Conversely, sucking or just refusing outright may result in your character earning drawbacks. Beyond diverse skill challenges for just about every skill and various story feats can be gained this way as well – take e.g. one that allows you to not provoke AoOs with unarmed strikes – not as strong as proper improved unarmed strike, but damn cool as a bonus.

 

Add to that formation training (with rather cool tactical benefits), weapon training etc. and we have a cool training – even before infiltrating a village of a drunken goblin clan and extracting their leader as a kind of covert ops test and the surprising finale that hints at the things to come, this module proved surprisingly interesting.

 

The pdf provides full stats for all characters, a DM-check-list for achievements/drawbacks and formations and 4 pages of full-color player-friendly versions of the maps.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – I didn’t notice any significant glitches that would have spoiled the module. The layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column, full-color standard and the pdf’s maps are solid, and working, but not particularly beautiful. Artworks are okay. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, which is a comfort detriment the pdf didn’t need imho.

 

Designer Greg LaRose lies to us on the first page “This adventure is going to suck. Just quit reading.” You can read these words on the first page and they’re wrong – while military training is surely no cakewalk and not exciting in the traditional sense due to the rigid structure the module imposes, it turned out to be anything but sucky. In fact, especially DMs who have a hard time with rp-dialogue improvisation will marvel at the exceedingly detailed read-aloud text, which comes with blue text for regular read-aloud text, red text for speech directly addressing the PCs – which is nice to have a visual cue for the instructor-voice. Indeed, the dialogues and instructions are exceedingly detailed and provide ample help for the DM.

 

In fact, I thought the respective skill challenges would be much more boring, the meta-plot and characters seeping through and suffusing the experience rather in rather cool ways. Now it’s been quite some time since the release of this module and while it, at the time of me writing this review, is not certain whether we’ll ever get the follow up modules, this one can easily be taken as a nice beginner’s module to depict a party in service to some elite organization or military – reskinning is all it takes, so yes, this remains relevant.

 

This module is gutsy indeed – in structure, in daring to be different. And while it will not be for everyone, if you ever wanted a great “becoming heroes”-module that takes the form of a quasi-military intense training, then this will be exceedingly awesome for you. This is many things – unconventional, brave, different – but it does not, I repeat, it does not suck. While not perfect due to a couple of glitches, the non-too-impressive maps and the lack of bookmarks, it is an innovative, cool module that dares to be different and with its cool ideas (I *want* more formations and see them in battle!), I sincerely hope that we’ll one day see the follow-up modules. Until then, I remain with a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

You can get this very unconventional, cool module here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.