Jun 182018
 

Star Log.Deluxe: Aging Rules (SFRPG)

This extra-long installment of the Star Log-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, after a brief introduction to the subject matter, we begin with defining age categories, a component I found puzzling in its absence from the Starfinder core rulebook.

 

This pdf seeks to remedy this gap and provide mechanically-relevant consequences of age. The pdf recognizes 8 age categories: Infant, toddler, child, adolescent, young adult, mature adult, old adult, and venerable adult. Mental and physical age category usually are identical, but don’t have to be.

 

Each age category has an aging modifier that applies to many of the character’s abilities, acting as ability penalties, which may only be lessened, removed or suppressed by other aging effects. The mental age category’s aging penalty is applied to the mental ability score, the physical one to the physical ability scores. Infants and toddlers are restricted regarding both physical and mental acumen, while they and children have restrictions regarding physical traits. The maximum age penalty an age category can impose on its own is -5. The age categories are concisely presented – toddlers and infants are, obviously, highly restricted on the actions they can take, for example.

 

But more important, the aging process in itself is concisely defined, and a massive table notes age categories for the core races, legacy Pathfinder races and the massive amount of Starfinder races, including the skinwalkers introduced in the Star Log.EM-series. Since the scifi-genre is rife with complex races and uncommon life-cycles, the system can account for reverse aging etc. and similar oddities. Since the pdf provides, step by step breakdowns of aging categories, the pdf is superbly easy to tweak regarding these components. Heck, provided the GM allows, there is the option to treat characters as 25% younger or older to account for differences in maturity.

 

Now, Julian Barnes once said, that “identity is memory, memory identity”. – it is a sad truth that the deterioration of the physical form represents a fate that all living things have to come to terms with. Optional rules to avoid mental and physical deterioration are provided, which allow you to depict the ever-growing strain that trauma can impose on the well-being of the individual. Particularly if you’re aiming for a more gritty Starfinder-experience, these rules should prove o be inspiring. Special cases like androids or samsarans are also mentioned.

 

This out of the way, we are introduced to two new themes: Old-times nets +1 to one mental ability score and nets you and Int-based theme skill. 6th level enhances your bonuses for covering fire, harrying fire and aid another, provided your skill bonus in the skill in question, BAB or age exceeds that of the assisted ally – the respective conditions are presented in a concise and precise manner. 12th level lets you add +1d4 to a nearby younger ally’s skill check, provided the ally has been under your tutelage. This can be used only once per day per target, with Resolve paying for additional uses. At 18th level, you can regain limited Resolve when a younger being rolls a natural 20. The ability has a hard cap to prevent abuse. Cool theme!

 

The second theme is prodigy, which nets a class skill, -5 to all of the skill’s DCs, and nets you +1 in the associated ability score. 6th level allows you to roll a skill check in the skill at advantage (roll twice, take better result) 1/day. 12th level allows you to complete longer tasks quicker by entering a trance that leaves you wide open. As a capstone, at 20th level, you can regain limited Resolve when rolling a natural 20 in the skill you specialize in. The pdf also includes new technology associated with age:

 

NCNUs (neural cartography nanite units) are implanted in the brain and rewire the mind, enhancing the character to Young Adult category in 6 months; Youth Enhancer Systems (endocrine slot) reduce physical ability score penalties imposed by the aging modifier – these come up to Mk V. Also for the endocrine system, there’d be the quick-gro biotech, basically the biotech means to physically age you to young adulthood quickly. There are two magic serums introduced – one for age regression and one for age progression.

 

The pdf also contains two different hybrid items, the first of which would be the external neural interface, which allows you to directly interface with powered armor, starships or vehicles. Powered armor pilots gain initiative and Ref-saves bonuses and increased maximum Dexterity values; starships can be piloted better and gunning, obviously, also improves when taking that role. Vehicles can be enhanced regarding attacks and AI autopilots overridden. Implanting this item in adults is more dangerous than usual – though kids have an easier time surviving the process unharmed. Particularly nasty: The higher Mk versions require the previous one to be present, meaning that a new surgery for upgrading is required. Similarly, reducing such a system takes multiple surgeries, so you better know what you’re getting into… Secondly, rejuvies are pills that combine necromancy and nanobots to combat aging in a delightful satire of our culture’s obsession with youth: These can alleviate age penalties and pain, and “Gray Away” pills can get rid of physical age modifiers, with greater versions allowing for the temporary regression of mental age – this can make for particularly interesting narratives in conjunction with the deterioration-rules in grittier games, or to offset penalties of an aged character, with a pressure to adventure for credits to keep the rejuvies flowing…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no significant formal or rules-relevant guffaws. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf sports a nice full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Alexander Augunas’ aging rules are precise, easy to grasp, and cleanly-presented. They fill an important hole in Starfinder’s core rules and do so elegantly. The material presented is complex enough to be mechanically-relevant, without becoming too potent, too character-defining; your character will be race and class first, then defined by the age, not vice versa. Min-maxing isn’t a good option here either. Sure, there are tangible benefits to age categories, but not enough to unhinge the math. In short, this represents a well-crafted, interesting supplement, well worth checking out: My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool supplement here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 182018
 

Vacant Ritual Assembly #2 (OSR)

The second installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly ’zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/introduction/suggested reading/listening/watching, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

 

As before, the rules assumed here regarding OSR-system employed would be LotFP. As such, it is intended for mature audiences and has a weird/dark fantasy vibe. The pdf sports vulgarity, if you mind the like.

 

The pdf’s proper content begins with a d66 table of names, with male, female and family-name column provided, and family names focusing on a somewhat English/French-style: Chamberlain and d’Aguillon, for example. This is followed by a nice, painless page that depicts the different, classic zodiac signs, assigning a +1 ability score bonus and suggesting personality traits for the signs. Solid, if not exactly mind-blowing so far.

 

This changes immediately on the next pages: On a two-page spread, we get a top-tier, gorgeous isometric b/w-map of the forlorn fishing village Dretcher’s Bay. Seriously, I was utterly flabbergasted to see a map of this quality in a humble fanzine, and the map is annotated in a player-friendly, key-less style, thus not breaking immersion. Led by three crabber captains (who come with mugshots on the lower border of the page), the place is pretty miserable, but ties seamlessly into the next article, on carcinology, where the naturalist living in Dretcher’s Bay shares his observations on the local bell crabs and highlights the costly sea coat. And yes, aforementioned Bell Crabs get monster stats. Oh, and there is the issue of the nephropids, lobster-like humanoids that live on a nearby island, making for a further complication for the region. Scratchy pencil-artworks add an illusion of looking into a notebook, and the read-aloud text for these crunchy bits adds to this conceit. Heck, we even get a size comparison.

 

The next double-page spread deals with the secrets of Acray, ruins nearby, swallowed by the sea. The article mentions briefly e.g. the presence of a dolphin sorceress (alas, sans stats) and loot to be found under the sea, as well as Bell Crab icons noting where these dangerous beings can be found. This is a nice addition to Dretcher’s Bay, though here, we only get a keyed version – no player-friendly version is included, which is a bit of a pity, for the top-down map is pretty nice.

 

After this, we have a guest article by none other than Anxious P, known for creative and unique artworks in various OSR-supplements. Here, we learn about oarsmen and the strange fares they may demand – from years to fingernails and vitality, this section makes paying the price…interesting. This one also comes with a d66-table of various woes the oarsman may confess to. Another winner!

 

After this, we take a look at brief sidetrek module inspired by a LotFP-artwork, intended for low level characters: Long ago, a Cyclops roamed the world, doomed to roam the world for the sin of treason. The titular eye has very potent effects and comes with full stats as a magic item. The Cyclops, doomed, died one day, and when an insane backwater guy found the tomb with its cyclopean motifs, he managed to create a misguided pseudo-religion of sorts around it. The hillbilly-ish man has since spawned a clan (called “Behelden” – and yes, the author knows this is no word!) of devoted beings. Wandering monsters and a solid map accompany this mini-adventure, and we get stats. While a player-friendly, key-less version of the map would have been nice, I consider this to be a solid sidetrek.

 

The ‘zine concludes with an interview with Greg Gorgonmilk.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. The b/w layout deserves special mentioning, as does the artwork and cartography – this ‘zine is absolutely GORGEOUS and aesthetically-pleasing. The cartography of Dretcher’s Bay alone makes the low $2.00 asking price of the otherwise pretty brief ‘zine totally worthwhile. The maps are really cool, but I wished they were layered or came with player-friendly versions. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

 

Clint Krause and Anxious P provide a surprisingly inspired installment: Anxious P’s article is great and the connected articles on Dretcher’s Bay are amazing, generating a cool, compelling atmosphere. The crunch-density increased in comparison to #1, and all without compromising the atmosphere. The adventure side-trek is slightly less amazing, but considering the extremely low price, this is absolutely worth getting if you enjoy the slightly odd. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this ‘zine for a paltry $2.00 here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 182018
 

Places of Power: Khla’Akear (system neutral)

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

 

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the referee’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

 

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

 

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

 

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the referee to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

 

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, with class-references adjusted to old-school classes, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions!! The system neutral-version does come with a nice marketplace section that has been adjusted to account for the different realities of old-school gaming, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here. This being the system neutral version, I won’t hold that against the pdf.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

 

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every referee worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

 

In contrast to the PFRPG and 5e-versions, it would not be fair to complain about a lack of rules for the tapping into the souls of the fiends within, and neither would it be fair to hold the lack of unique martial tricks against this. As such, I am left with a supplement that is frankly inspired and nothing to complain about – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this inspired locale here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 182018
 

Places of Power: Khla’Akear (5e)

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

 

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the GM’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

 

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

 

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

 

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the GM to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

 

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions that have been properly adjusted to account for 5e’s mechanics!! The 5e-version does come with a nice, modified marketplace section, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

 

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every Gm worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

 

However, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like Raging Swan Press’ general low-crunch aesthetics hurt this place. I mean, come on, tapping into rakshasa-souls? That’s awesome, and it should have proper mechanical representations. Special casting tricks, a unique fighting style – this type of thing begs for mechanical realization, something the pdf does not provide. The series has a really high level, and, let me make that abundantly clear, what’s here is great. However, the pdf still left me with a feeling of unrealized potential, at least for the 5e-version. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this cool locale here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 182018
 

Places of Power: Khla’Akear

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

 

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the GM’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

 

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

 

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

 

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the GM to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

 

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions!! The PFRPG-version does come with a nice marketplace section, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

 

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every Gm worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

 

However, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like Raging Swan Press’ general low-crunch aesthetics hurt this place. I mean, come on, tapping into rakshasa-souls? That’s awesome, and it should have proper mechanical representations. Special casting tricks, a unique fighting style – this type of thing begs for mechanical realization, something the pdf does not provide. The series has a really high level, and, let me make that abundantly clear, what’s here is great. However, the pdf still left me with a feeling of unrealized potential, at least for the PFRPG-version. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this cool place here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 122018
 

Rude Awakening (SFRPG)

This module clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover/advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, first of all, this is FREE. Originally created as a One-Page-Dungeon, it surprisingly does not show this humble origin; the adventure is intended for 4 1st level characters, and sports a detailed read-aloud introductory text, that presumes that the PCs are in cryosleep, something allowed by the cryogenic pods, bulk 4, which is introduced herein. Once common, in a post-drift era, these have become more rare, and for a reason. The pdf also notes the details for good crew berths and the turbo caterpillar drive, which allow for underwater movement. The pdf also provides detailed rules for long cold sleep – while death is possible, it is EXTREMELY unlikely, and the pdf provides a variety of mental effects…and there may be special effects, like temporarily gaining the ability to detect thoughts (not italicized properly). This generator/hazard encompasses physical and mental effects, and in a nitpick, does not specify the condition-durations for the minor mental effects, but judging from the presentation and explicit statements regarding durations of more pronounced effects, I assume these to last for only the immediate aftermath of cold sleep. On the plus-side, I did enjoy the decision to highlight terrain features and rules-relevant components in small boxes; it makes running the module smoother.

 

Beyond that, we get stats for a new tier 3 spaceship, the devilfish, which looks just as you’d expect – like a spacefaring mantaray! Now, here, I feel the need to comment on the supplemental material this pdf provides. You see, the adventure comes with a massive archive that includes VTT-friendly versions of the maps employed herein, as well as a pdf that provides the maps once more. Why? Well, you can print out both main map and deck plan of the ship in full scale, large size, 32 x54 inches & 28 x 31 inches, respectively) and as an additional bonus, the main map of the module comes with a LAYERED version! Yes, you heard me. You can easily customize this as you see fit, and the supplemental map-pdf is even bookmarked! Right from the get-go, that is a pretty amazing feat right there, and even if you are not interested in the module per se, I’d strongly suggest checking this out for the maps! (Seriously, this type of map-support should be the standard!)

 

All right, this is probably as far as I can go without diving into deep SPOILER-territory, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion!

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs revive from cold sleep, only to find that, beyond the locker room that contains their equipment, there isn’t much left of their ship – a massive hull breach awaits, and while spacesuits with magnetic boots (to avoid the issues of…well, space and zero G) are available, there isn’t much oxygen left – the PCs will have to hustle to get to safety! Indeed, the adventure, which could easily work in a convention slot, can be rather lethal here…if you choose to. The PCs will have to jump across the hull breach, and the Acrobatics DC is stiff. Consequences-wise, being off-kilter…or, well, dead, provide two variants on different ways to run the module. Indeed, at DC 20, the Acrobatics checks to do the like are pretty stiff. As the PCs hopefully make their way past the pressurized and unpressurized collapsed drone bays. Speaking of which: The first combat encounter will be with a hostile drone, which annoyingly notes just “good/poor saves” in the statblock, instead of noting them. While it’s only a quick flip of the corebook to determine the proper saves, that still constitutes a comfort detriment – the drone should have proper monster stats, not stats based on the mechanic class feature. Another thing you’ll notice, is that the statblock formatting of the stats herein lacks a couple of blank spaces and that sometimes, line breaks are missing, making the statblock formatting feel a bit rough. While I’m nitpicking – it’s still “electricity damage,” not “electrical damage”, as a plasma-hazard erroneously notes.

 

Anyways, the PCs will have to make their way past hostile mercenaries and navigate the broken vessel they found themselves in – best before the oxygen runs out! This is particularly interesting, considering that quite a few hazards have the potential to break spacesuits and leak oxygen. On the downside, the implementation of hazards like this is not always as concise as it should be: There are instances where no damage type is given, though we clearly have, for example, fire damage. Similarly, there is no such thing as “heat damage” in Starfinder and “enflamed” space suits could also use a more precise rules language. Anyways, the PCs will make their way to the aforementioned mantaray-spaceship, where they should attempt to open the hangar doors and bypass the biometric locks to escape…but, alas, no rules for the like are presented.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay – I noticed quite a few formatting deviations, as well as issues regarding damage types, missing DCs and similar hiccups in the rules-language department. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is the star of this pdf – the full VTT-support, player-friendly, layered maps, etc. – it’s worth the download all on its own.

 

Michael Tumey’s brief little introductory module is, theme-wise, fun and interesting, and the supplemental material is surprisingly detailed, testament to the care that went into this. The adventure works well as a forgiving introduction or as a really deadly convention-style/hardcore game. That being said, the module does falter and stumble a bit regarding the rules-language, sporting more issues in the details than I am frankly comfortable with. As a commercial supplement, I’d consider this to be a mixed bag, but it is actually FREE – and frankly, I’d consider this to be worth downloading for the maps. Considering that this is FREE, I consider this to definitely worth checking out. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars….and the maps warrant granting this my seal of approval; getting these for FREE is a huge deal and needs to be rewarded!

 

You can get this cool module and its damn fine maps here on OBS for FREE!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Jun 122018
 

Star Log.EM: Stellar Revelations (SFRPG)

This expansion for the Solarian-class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After the introduction, which also discusses the dualistic nature of the class, we move straight into the new stellar revelations of the class, with graviton and pulsar revelations both sporting a “G” or “P” to denote their respective type. We begin with 2nd level, where 3 revelations are provided, 2 of which are proton revelations: Proton blast lets you fire plasma as a laser small arm, with an item level no greater than one below your solarian level. This cannot have autofire, does not require charges, and inflicts E& F damage. Solar weapon and manifestation apply their benefits to this blast. Proton lash acts similarly, using a taclash as a basis, using Charisma bonus instead of Strength bonus, with the tweaks otherwise being similar. The Graviton defender revelation, alas, is slightly wonky: Whenever an ally within 60 ft. of you makes an attack, you can use your reaction to divert the attack, making it behave as covering fire sans requiring an attack roll, with the penalty being -2 or Charisma modifier, whichever is higher. Covering fire, as per SFRPG, requires that you designate a selected ally, something that this ability does not mention; I assume that the affected ally is the one whose attack you diverted.

 

At 6th level, 3 new revelations are provided as well: The plasma flare proton revelation makes it possible for enemies hit with plasma weapons while in proton mode to get the burning condition on a failed save,a s you tap into solar armor’s power, which acts as a prerequisite. One of the two graviton revelations also requires solar armor: Graviton impact allows you, while attuned to graviton mode and taking a full attack, attack or charge t spend 1 Resolve Point. If you do, the next time you hit a target before the start of your next turn, you may use a free sunder attempt versus that enemy’s weaponry or armor, using attack roll as the combat maneuver, applying all usual bonuses. When fully attuned, you add the penetrating special weapon quality. The second graviton revelation lets you, as a standard action, target a foe within 30 ft., who must succeed a Fort-save or suffer temporarily as though carrying additional bulk. When fully attuned, you also impose a penalty based on Charisma to determine the amount of bulk the target can carry thus.

 

The pdf also sports two 10th level revelations. Graviton fluctuations lets you, when in graviton mode and using defy gravity to gain a fly speed, leave fluctuations in your wake that may render targets off-kilter on a failed save, with 12th level allowing for the extension of durations. Damn cool! Nitpick: The ability does not specify that it requires defy gravity, which it probably should. The proton burst revelation builds on the proton blast/lash or solarian weapon: When making a single attack with these as a standard action, you can adopt proton mode until the start of your next turn. You may choose explosion or line mode, adding explode (5 ft.) for melee (should probably note “melee” explicitly, even though that aspect is evident from context), acting as a grenade at range. In line mode, proton burst counts as having the unwieldy and line properties, but no benefits for the other options are provided here.

 

The pdf closes with a nice section that talks about solarians in the Xa-Osoro system.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, there were a few minor nitpicks for me to note. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf has a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

The solarian is one of the most interesting classes in SFRPG, and easily one aspects of the game that sets it apart from other Scifi games. I really enjoy the flavor and ideas inherent in the Solarian options, and the mode-based playstyle is intriguing. The added options presented here allow for some intriguing tweaks to the chassis and generally are components that I enjoy. However, at the same time, the rules are a tad bit less refined than what I’m accustomed to see from Alexander Augunas, and at this length, minor flaws weigh heavier than in larger files. If you can look past aforementioned nitpicks, then consider this to be worth rounding up; as a reviewer, I can’t round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 112018
 

Star Log.EM: Skinwalkers (SFRPG)

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin with a brief introduction to the subject matter at hand before getting a detailed depiction of the Skinwalker races, including a physical description, notes on their home world and the like – and indeed, the race’s history in the Xa-Osoro system is rather amazing: When Blood Space seeped into Eogawa’s atmosphere, the non-native population of the moon was turned into frothing lycanthropes…and yet, by some miracle, those infected while pregnant gave birth to skinwalkers, rising from savagery courtesy of vanara aid! A young race defined by the culture into which they’re birthed, we get notes on different skinwalker relations and yes, as such a young species, they have adventuring pretty much hardcoded into their DNA. Minor nitpick: No “Playing as…”-section is provided. Vital statistics regarding weight, etc. are not included, alas, though one can assume the human baseline.

 

Rules-wise, skinwalkers get 4 hp, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and add +2 to a physical ability score of their choice. Skinwalkers are humanoids with the human, skinwalker and shapechanger subtypes, are Medium and have a base speed of 30 ft. One animal or vermin is chosen as lineage. Every skinwalker can assume a hybrid shape based on their lineage as a standard action (reversal is the same), granting them a +10 racial bonus to Disguise. Being knocked unconscious and the like is properly covered. In this hybrid form, they get a +1 bonus to AC. They also have low-light vision, gain +2 to Survival and in their hybrid form, they get natural attacks analogue to the Vesk.

 

At 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th or 18th level, a skinwalker may choose the Bestial Shapechange feat as if granted by an archetype. When taking the feat, you get to choose one of several manifestations, provided you meet the prerequisites, if any. These include no penalties to damage and atk underwater with kinetic melee weapons, and being able to hold your breath longer. Being able to speak with vermin, magical beasts and animals, gaining a blindsight (type taken into account; it must make sense regarding lineage – this is an important balancing factor, as it prevents taking the more potent blindsight variants), darkvision (can be improved regarding range), quicker shapechanging and gaining two class skills from a brief list complement this section.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf sports a nice piece of artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas provides an interesting race here: Born from a cataclysmic event, skinwalkers allow you to play, in a balanced manner, the classic lycanthrope concept without the infection issues that usually accompany it. The benefits of the feat are weighed and presented in an interesting manner as well. All in all, I consider this to be a well-crafted little racial supplement. While the supplement could have used a tiny bit more material regarding secondary flavor, I consider it to be a worthwhile offering. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this cool race here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 112018
 

A Thousand Dead Babies (NGR/OSR)

The second of Zzarchov Kowolski’s self-published dual-format NGR/OSR-adventures clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was requested by my patreons.

 

So, let’s talk about the pink elephant in the room first. The title is basically a gigantic trigger warning. This module is NOT about killing infants or the like, quite to the contrary. However, it deals with a really sadistic, high-impact conundrum that involves, well, babies. If infanticide by bad guys and the like are not something your group can handle, then don’t even bother. It goes without saying that this module needs to be handled with care, and that it is NOT for everyone. Genre-wise, this is really gritty, really, really *DARK* dark fantasy, so the title, ultimately acts as a deterrent and as a caveat emptor for anyone contemplating getting this. In that way, the title must almost considered to be a form of fair warning.

 

Anyways, this is the second of the author’s NGR/OSR dual-statted modules, and difficulty-wise, it is a step up. Some monsters for OSR-games are referred to by being e.g. wraiths, and chances of being heard, for example are presented as e.g. 1/6. Formatting-wise, e.g. magic items are noted as bolded in the text (not as italicized, as in most games), and e.g. some key-NPCs have notes like: “Level 4 Cavalier, Anti-Paladin or Fighter with XYZ strength (not capitalized) and maximum hit points.” If you’re using this module with more classic OSR-games, you’ll need to do a bit of work. For NGR, the book is more precise, noting parts of classes, specializations and the like. More importantly, holy/unholy ground is rules-wise more relevant and noted where applicable. As far as level-ranges are considered, I’d probably play this at the very soonest at 2nd level in most OSR-games, as the adventure can become TPK-y-lethal very fast otherwise.

 

This can also be found in the new spells: 8 of them are provided in total, but 2 only exist in the NGR-rules – bane of mush’kar, which allows for the storage of a removed tooth of a still living person. When burning the tooth, the spell is cast by the burning being. Breath of the moors is a spell that conjures forth fog, based on the obfuscation spell template. There are three low level (level 1 for OSR) spells for magic-users: One conjures forth a bee swarm, with the OSR version being a bit confused regarding verbiage:”… in a devastating cone with a radius at any given point equal to the distance from the caster.” Cone or radius? The NGR version does not have this issue. Faerie sense lets you smell magical items, and screams of anguish doesn’t generate more than, well, a scream, which can make for a good distraction. In NGR, the scream can slightly increase the difficulty of another spell. At 2nd spell level for OSR, we have a wall of thorns, and the 3rd level spell dire goose makes a goose (which are FRIGHTENING when angered – take it from me, I grew up in the country!) into a massive monster with 3HD, AC as leather and two 1d6 wing attacks. In NGR, the stress mechanics explain the rage of the monster. No, you don’t control it. Yes, I consider that to be funny. Finally, there is a spell to bind extraplanar beings in empty tomes, filling the book with cursed text – in OSR-games, this is a 5th level spell. In NGR, the spell is more interesting, requiring the creature to be defeated briefly after being touched.

 

There are quite a few magic items to be found in the module as well; even basic items like a +1 dagger of bone that also acts as a holy symbol get their one section, and the book of Aarrrgh (aptly named due to the demon bound within), a scroll made of manleather, a cursed coin, a pouch of teeth and the like provide a surprising depth regarding descriptions and effects for both systems.

 

One item is btw. also the central fixture and high-impact problem that the PCs will need to deal with, but before we discuss that one, I should note that the module comes with a really elegant layout and cartography (though no player-friendly maps), and that it has consequences for the actions of the PCs, and there is a pretty good chance that things will not end up well for the surrounding area – retaining the status quo should be considered to be a success. Did I mention Old MacDonald’s farm?

 

All right, in order to discuss further details of this adventure, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, the module is somewhat akin to the first dual-statted module published by the author, in that it takes places in a remote locale, here, the vale of Corroc, named for the settlement of the same name. As in the “Gnomes of Levnec”, we are introduced to the key-NPCs for the settlement, including the yeoman, a local berry-plucker, the village priest, etc. We also get such a fluff-centric write-up for e.g. the cook of the lumber camp, and the settlement New Smithwald, south of the Thousand Acre Wood, houses a potent knight, who has not been punished for not converting due to his stalwart loyalty and reputation.

 

Converted? Well, yes, for we once more have a situation akin to that of “Gnomes of Levnec”, where a remnants of a pagan cult are competing with Christianity (or its stand-in), but unlike in that module, there is no misguided cult of blithering, violent idiots responsible for some of the odd happenings. Instead, there is but one active human (she does have elven allies) member of the cult of Titania left – in the power vacuum that accompanied the purging of heathens, a dread cult of Baphomet has taken root. Alas, the none-too-smart village priest can’t keep it in his pants, having an illicit love affair. If his deeds are brought to like, they will have dire consequences for the poor maiden engaging with him, but failure to do so will not be helpful in the long run either. The very medieval aesthetic also is represented in the existence of a rather pitiful example of a black library of the church in town, which btw. also houses the crypts of once mighty pagans, where clever PCs can get magic items…or get a blessing from a fountain that may guarantee offspring. No matter the usual physiological hindrances like race or sex.

 

Anyways, the PCs are most likely here because they heard about footprints of an upright walking goat, and indeed, the dark cult of Baphomet is busy at work: Beyond the cultists in the settlement, there is a very potent black knight and an upright-walking, razor-sharp teeth sporting demonic goat monstrosity that watch over/participate in the grisly orgy/ritual every night…for they have found a mighty juju tree, once sacred. The tree is now afflicted with a demonic fungal infestation, a literal corruption, one that may be dealt wish, provided the PCs manage to stop the cult and water the heart of the tree with blood…provided they can survive the trip into the small dungeon, that is.

 

But how can a cult generate enough sacrifices? How does the cult manage to keep up all this mystical pressure on the potent tree? Well, the Goat in the Woods has a potent cursed artifact, found after the previous owner has committed suicide, being unable to cope with the responsibility. This vile artifact would be responsible for the module’s name – it’s the stork’s bassinet, and it teleports to its owner (who may only be saved by death or potent magics from ownership) every day. It then produces a single, healthy baby. Every. Single. Day. In the lack of an owner, the babies simply pile up. Are they teleported away from somewhere? Are they magical simulacra? Clones? No idea, but whatever choice you opt for, the consequences will be DARK. In the aftermath of the cult’s demise, it is quite likely that a PC will end up being the owner of the bassinet, which will require a quest to destroy. While it is easy enough for the GM to rule that one of the magic items in the module can destroy it, this is per se not intended by the adventure. This is also the reason why this adventure can really use the title to scare away folks that definitely will be offended – leaving the item or the babies generated anywhere will be a rather bleak and dark move for PCs and players to swallow, and even if you devise an easy and quick way to destroy it, there still will remain the fact that an untold number of these infants were slaughtered. This is not for every table.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, there are a few minor hiccups and, due to the dual-stat nature of the module, the formatting can be somewhat unconventional. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports two really neat original b/w-artworks that could come straight out of Death Frost Doom – no surprise, as Jez Gordon is responsible for both. Same goes for the cartography, where the absence of player-friendly versions of the maps makes for a comfort detriment. The pdf sports a couple of basic bookmarks.

 

Zzarchov Kowolski’s “A Thousand Dead Babies” is, on a formal level, more refined that “Gnomes of Levnec;” the presentation is smoother, and while we don’t get a cool “getting lost”-generator this time around, the module’s presentation and sequence is professional and nice. That being said, where the supplement on the gnomes focused on the weird and genuinely hilarious, this one is pretty much the epitome of super-dark fantasy. There is some subdued quip to be found here and there, but considering the subject matter, this is probably one of the darkest modules I know.

 

…and, to be honest, I don’t think the module required the shock value. If you tone that aspect done, you water down what makes this module have such a gut-wrenching impact, but you’re also left with a rather well-crafted adventure. Now, I firmly believe that a reviewer should be capable of abstracting being offended and the like, and I do not condone the subject matter; killing kids and infants is one of the few things that I do not tackle in my games, which otherwise tend to gravitate towards the dark. That being said, the PCs *ARE* the heroes here; they get to end this horrid massacre, and while the consequences may be hard to swallow, I can see this work well for groups seeking to explore the logistic and moral conundrums that arise from ownership of the vile item that made the cult’s atrocities possible.

 

Would I inflict this module on my players? No. But it is not up to me to decide what works and what doesn’t work for you and your game.

 

Which leaves me with the craftsmanship of the adventure, its locales, etc. – and here, the module manages to create a grim, captivating atmosphere that feels very medieval, grimy and desolate. Prose-wise, this is impressive. As far as the rules-components are concerned, I’d consider the NGR-rules to be significantly tighter than the OSR-material posed; lack of adherence to a specific system and minor inconsistencies mar that aspect for more common old-school games somewhat.

 

Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot to like here, and the module is not a gratuitous gorefest; however, it is hard to stomach due to its subject matter, and at this point, you probably already know whether this is for you or not.

 

Which leaves me with the job of rating this. I won’t lie. I wouldn’t have reviewed this sans the request, mainly because I have a hard time giving this a fair shake, because it’s really hard for me to look past one of the few things that I, as a person, consider distasteful and don’t want to see in my games. As a person, I frankly considered the grimdark topic of the adventure to be…well, superfluous. The base line is similar enough to the “Gnomes of Levnec” to allow for direct comparison, and where the latter went the weird (and hilarious) route in a slightly dark manner, this one goes pitch-black regarding its themes. If you enjoy that kind of thing and thought that Gnomes was too lighthearted, if you really wanted a twisted moral conundrum and shock value galore, if you thought that LotFP’s “Doom Cave of Crystal-Headed Children” was too gonzo/goofy and didn’t provide real grimdark themes…well, then this one delivers in spades.

 

If you’re not that into super-dark subject matter and want to check out what the author has in store, I wholeheartedly recommend the “Gnomes of Levnec” without any reservations; for this adventure, I am left with a per se captivating dark fantasy yarn that, depending on your preferences, either is enhanced or ruined by the themes presented. Hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, and I’d ask you to round up if you are interested in the like; if you’re offended, then steer clear. However, the minor imperfections in the OSR-rules and the lack of suggestions regarding the central moral conundrum in the aftermath represent both needless detractors from the adventure; a “solution” or at least some suggestions, would have gone a long way to render this more palatable, at least for me. My final verdict will hence round down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this adventure here on OBS!

 

You can find the less…grim and rather remarkable “Gnomes of Levnec” here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 112018
 

Star Log.EM: Eldritch Knight (SFRPG)

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, after the by now classic introduction, we dive into the rules, though it should be noted that it makes sense to read this, as the design goal here was to encapsulate, in spite of the existence of the soldier-class, the flavor of the classic eldritch knight.

 

The eldritch knight archetype grants additional class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level. At 2nd level, we have spell critical, which is a special critical hit effect that you can use instead of that of the weapon. When confirming a crit, you may cast a spell as a swift action, which must include the target among those affected. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity. This is problematic in as much as that the spell does not state a maximum casting time, which is not exactly a smart means of future-proofing this one. The ability should restrict the eligible spell in some way. All other class features provide a fighting style technique from the arcane assailant soldier; rune of the eldritch knight at 6th, secret of the magi at 9th, power of legend at 12th and secret of the archmagi at 18th level.

 

The pdf also presents a total of 4 new feats to complement the concept: Disrupting Grappler forces foes to succeed a caster level check in order to cast a spell when you’re grappling them, with DC scaling via your BAB. Enhanced Dispel Magic provides a bonus to dispel SPs that work like specific spells and extends the counterspell range to long. Nice! Riving Strike requires Mystic Strike or rune of the eldritch knight, and allows you to render opponents vulnerable to magic, penalizing saves or reducing SR temporarily with a standard action attack. You need to expend a swift action to add this, though. Will save DC scales with your highest ability score modifier and BAB or CL. Nice: A target affected by it can’t be affected again for a day, providing a means to prevent cheesing. Interesting here: Full action-using attacks do not allow for this, courtesy of SFRPG’s action economy, which means that the feat promotes more creative play. Kudos! Finally, we have Spell Severance, which once more requires Mystic Strike or the rune, as well as 1 rank Mysticism, which is really neat: 1/day, you can dispel magic a foe hit with a magic weapon, using BAB as CL. Really cool, though personally, I would have added a means to spend (a lot) of Resolve to recharge it.

 

The pdf closes with a nice piece of flavor-text regarding eldritch knights in the Xa-Osoro system.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no obvious formatting snafus etc. Layout adheres to the colorful standard of the series and the pdf sports the nice artwork on the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ eldritch knight has a tough heritage – the classic option hasn’t been the most remarkable out there in the first place, and since the soldier incorporates much of the thematic concept, we are left with a solid, if not perfect take on the idea of the eldritch knight that goes as light step further than the soldier, but which doesn’t necessarily feel radically different. As noted, I am convinced that the spell critical class feature should be future-proofed regarding maximum casting time; apart from this one, I enjoyed all of the feats herein, leaving us with a mixed bag that is slightly on the positive side of things. Still, as far as I’m concerned, it’s closer to the 4 stars than to the 3, which is why I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

 

You can get this Star Log here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.