Aug 172018
 

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Sailors on the Starless Sea (DCC)

This adventure clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was requested by my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.

 

Now, if you’re playing DCC, chances are that you will be familiar with this adventure, and it being a classic funnel, it has kicked off countless campaigns – it was the first stand-alone adventure released for the system, after all. This is a pretty well-known adventure, but is it still holding up? Does it make sense today, and could it work in other contexts? We’ll see. Now, this is a funnel – that means it’s intended for 0-level characters. A lot of them. 10 – 15 are suggested, noting that typically, about half of them will survive. The module could be run as a level 1 or 2 adventure as well, though compared to most such DCC modules, it may be a bit easy for those levels. It *may* be – or it may not. You see, this module does a surprisingly good job at blending rules-relevant aspects and player-skill. While your characters can and will probably suffer a few casualties, their survival will be more contingent on the skill of the player than on the roll of the dice. I will highlight a few examples for this design-philosophy, which I btw. thoroughly enjoy.

 

Now, on a formal level, as pretty much all adventures in this series released for the DCC-rules, this is a beautiful book: The b/w-artworks are really neat, and the cartography depicts the main-module in a top-down style that is slightly tilted. The map of the bonus complex (see SPOILERS below) is delivered in an isometric perspective. All maps come with artworks and style galore. Thing is, I really wished we got a player-friendly key-less version of the maps, as the letters break immersion for me. Having the maps layered would have been another easy way to ensure that more groups get to see these gorgeous pieces, handing them out, piece by piece as the PCs explore. The module does come with copious amounts of read-aloud text that show the author’s talent for descriptive prose: The atmosphere evoked by these is compelling and captivating. The adventure comes with a handy encounter table that codifies the base module’s encounters by type and provides a handy summary for the judge. The module also includes a list of 10 different rumors pertaining the adventure-locale.

 

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

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All right, only judges around? Great! So, in ages past, when the forces of Chaos (think of a more Warhammer-esque, nasty capital letters Chaos…) were more potent, they had champions – so-called Chaos Lords. Two particularly evil individuals, Felan and Molan, were such beings, but their wickedness did end, with one of them slain, and the other one retreating into Chaos itself, vowing to return once more. This foretold time has come, and the PCs are dumped right into it. As 0-level folks, they are assumed to be villagers and similarly unimpressive folks that respond to the recent abductions and raidings executed by beastmen from a nearby, ruined keep. This, thus is a combination of rescue mission and retribution, depending on your character’s motivations. These beastmen are btw. more versatile than the ones featured in the Warhammer universe: A table of 12 entries allow you to generate spontaneous and diverse looks for the beastmen, which may feature iridescent scales, weeping maggots, etc. – these are delightfully icky. Beastmen as a general notion, are assumed to have animal cunning, with only their leaders retaining a semblance of distinct personalities.

 

Now, while these beings constitute the primary antagonists of the module, they are not the only foes encountered, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The PCs may approach the keep from a variety of directions, which all carry their own dangers, and it is here that we already see the design paradigm I mentioned in action: Scaling a ruined wall’s slope can trigger an avalanche of rubble that can be lethal at this level, and that destroys equipment. Noticing that, well, scaling a steep slope of rubble may be dangerous can help here. The check is so low that succeeding it is all but guaranteed if the PCs just think. There also is a massive sinkhole, but approaching it may have the PCs tumble to a horrid fate – 500 ft. below, as the area seems to be hollow. The attention to detail here is impressive – the pdf even accounts for the unlikely case that PCs could have 500 ft. of rope! (Yeah, super-unlikely, but still – it’s nice to see this go above and beyond!) The extraction of PCs and approaching the sinkhole safely is noted as well as splaying out on the ground – mind you, this is not a dickish save or die: It does come with a creepy premonition warning the PCs!

 

In a way, this adventure, from the get-go, teaches by virtue of its design: PCs approaching the keep from the front will have to deal with rather dangerous vine horrors, basically corpses animated by corrupt vines; these things are actually more deadly than beastmen, so avoiding them, may be wise. In the best tradition of old-school modules, two threats are tied to curiosity and greed: Interacting with the Well of Souls can result in death or corruption, introducing the PCs to the potency of such decisions. The tomb of one of the Chaos Lords would be another such example: Lighted by an unearthly glow emitted from the ice covering all and exceedingly cold, the tomb offers treasure, yes. But the tomb is warded by 4 banes – which double as curses that the judge can later use for additional complications and as segues into other modules. Ideas regarding their use are provided. Still, this aspect of the module is completely optional, but that may not be evident.

 

This would be as well a chance as any to note how clever the adventure deals with magic: Exploring the charnel ruins, where the forces of Law locked in chaos cultists and had them burn. There is a darkened tar ooze that is a deadly foe, but with smart observations, the ooze may not need to be fought at all – smart players can find here an item that constitutes one of the solutions of the perhaps most deadly encounter herein. Placating the ooze is btw. something that smart players can extrapolate from the area and its description. Now, the regular “boss” of the keep level would be a beastman champion with some footsoldiers added, and, depending on how much you want the PCs to explore, you can disperse the villagers to be saved accordingly.

 

This ties in with the fully mapped “bonus content” additional dungeon included here. At the end of the module, there is an extra mini-dungeon, the “Summoning Pits.” This bonus module is rather creepy and slightly more deadly than the regular complex: These pits are the origin of the vine horrors noted before, and the place does contain a truly deadly and dangerous weapon – the Fiend Blade, which can provide power, but also corrupt and may even help casting some spells…but it does demand a price: It needs to be mentally battered into submission, requiring difficult Personality checks to use to its full capacity…or alternatively, a cost. Note that the danger this blade poses is clearly shown, and once more, the PC’s greed is what may be their undoing, for entering the circle that seals the blade may be rather deadly. Now, I mentioned the vine horrors – the PCs can find a rather twisted scene of these, seemingly locked in place, in the process of providing a human sacrifice. Serving the plant-entity known as the Slow God, they are executing a super-slow sacrifice, as the entity, curious about the concept of worship, dips its toes into the concepts. The Slow God can provide unique boons to brave adventurers, but it may also well lose themselves to its glacially-slow, alien thought-processes. Now, tinkering with the Slow God’s vine horrors may well be one of the most deadly encounters in the module, so once more, we have a sensible risk-reward ration here.

 

I really enjoy this bonus dungeon, and it may well work as a nice stand-alone scenario for conventions etc. Considering how challenging this one is, it is smart that it’s an optional sub-level, though one with massive benefits. You can completely ignore it – which is a plus or downside, depending on how you look at it. The main adventure’s text does not note the access points to the adventure, and as such, this is truly an optional bonus content. Now, personally, I think it would have been nice to see the main module text modified to acknowledge the existence of this content, but oh well.

 

Now, where was I? Oh, yes – having defeated the first beastman champion, the PCs can make their way into the bowels of the earth, where perceptive PCs will be able to notice two mosaics, which have been provided as a gorgeous handout. These handouts are important, for they contain clues that are potentially crucial for the PC’s survival. In these darkened halls, smart PCs that do a thorough job exploring may find a potent magical item, the band of fire, which can well spell the difference between life and death. The climax of the module deals with the subterranean shores of the eponymous starless sea: On it, the PCs can see a dragon boat awaiting, and clever characters may also deduce the magical means by which it may be called to the shore, for the waters are dangerous and home to an entity known as the Chaos Leviathan, a horrid, tentacle monstrosity far beyond the PC’s capabilities to best. The gigantic thing may be driven off by super lucky groups, but it also represents more of a puzzle than an actual combat challenge. If the players have been attentive, they may well have an idea on how to placate the leviathan – and while sacrifice is one possibility, it’s certainly not the only one. Tricking the leviathan is also an option, though one that can add further danger and a sense of frantic nature to the already challenging finale.

 

On an island in the starless sea, there lies a ziggurat, where beastmen are in the process of sacrificing villagers, throwing them into the magical forge crucible that is intended to reunite the body and mind of a vanquished chaos lord. Here, player smarts once more may make the difference between success and failure: Using robes of fallen chaos priests or sneaking are probably preferable, considering that there are quite a lot of beastmen attending the ceremony. This crowd of beastmen also acts as a unique terrain hazard of sorts, with PCs caught in their hands inexorably being moved towards the horrid fate of the sacrifice.

 

In order to come out on top here, the PCs will have to stop the shaman of the beast-men, and also get a chance to defeat the as of yet unstable form of the chaos lord – the skulls of challengers to the title of the chaos lord, which some PCs may have picked up, represent a potent weapon here, flaring with hatred. Defeating the as of yet weak form of the chaos lord with have pretty epic and cataclysmic repercussions, requiring that the PCs make haste to avoid annihilation, as the cave risks collapse. In the time-honored tradition of adventurers, they should run and get what they can – but tarrying may well see the PCs killed…once more, risk and reward.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules-language level. The layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and fits a surprising amount of content into its pages. The b/w-artworks are great, and the module’s cartography, as noted, is inspired, offering a top-down look of the keep and main complex, an isometric perspective for the bonus complex. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for the headers, but not for individual rooms.

 

Harley Stroh’s “Sailors on the Starless Sea” is a fantastic adventure in the best sense. It is very dangerous, but never in an unfair way. The adventure manages to transport the notions of a thoroughly magical world without requiring the meta-concerns of RPG-systems: There is method and an internal logic to how magic works within the game; players that think are rewarded, whereas approaching this with solely a rollplaying attitude will result in pain galore. I love this, as the adventure teaches being methodical and consequently rewards players ability over that of the PCs, making this an all out fun module to play. Compared with MANY “first” adventures for systems out there, this is a phenomenal achievement and clearly highlights the strength of the aesthetics of both DCC and its aesthetics. Now yes, I could complain about the fact that integration of the second printing bonus dungeon could be smoother, but that may well be a feature for you. Similarly, the lack of player-friendly versions of the amazing maps DCC modules tend to have galls me to no end, but the atmosphere and epic climax of this complex, the expert prose and fantastic execution make it all but impossible to rate this any other way than 5 stars + seal of approval. This is a great adventure, and one that holds up very well to this date. Much like “Doom of the Savage Kings”, this is good enough to get it even if you’re not playing DCC. Yes, that good.

 

You can get this inspiring module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 172018
 

The Idolator Hybrid Class

This hybrid class clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, this one takes a bit of a different approach than most hybrid classes – we begin with pretty extensive notes that first explain the design rationale, and then proceeds to provide a flavorful legend and some in-character prose. I enjoy books that take the time to set the stage. Now, idolatry has a bad reputation in the monotheistic religions that many people nowadays follow, but at one time, worshiping statues that actually properly represented the deity was the standard procedure. (One may well argue that, while nominally, most Christians don’t worship idols of their god, worshiping an abstract cross with a depiction of Jesus crucified on it, is actually not that different, and call hypocrisy on the idolatry ban, but I digress.)

 

Anyways, the idolator thus does feel somewhat “old”, a theme that is further emphasized by the quasi-Mesopotamian flair evoked by the cover and the layout. The class also is unique in that it lists 3 parent classes: Cleric, oracle and unchained summoner. Now, this sounds interesting, right? The class gets 2 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons + their deity’s favored weapon and light armor.

 

At 1st level, the idolator gets a favored ability score valued by the deity – these basically represent different specializations: These follow a similar design paradigm: You get either +1/2 class level (minimum 1) or + class level to all ability checks pertaining that ability score. Additionally, the class gets to select two skills based on the ability in question to add to the class skill list – this one, obviously, is not part of the parcel for those choosing Constitution – which is a good thing. The ability score chosen counts as two higher for the purpose of qualifying for feat prerequisites. In spite of the class not getting spellcasting per se, choosing Intelligence grants this boost also for the purpose of concentration, assuming Intelligence as the concentration-governing attribute. Beyond these, each ability score comes with bonus feats granted thus – Strength yields medium and heavy armor proficiency, for example, while Dexterity nets Lightning Reflexes and Weapon Finesse. All of the favored abilities have in common that they render the idolator immune to ability score damage for the chosen ability score at 10th level, with 20th level upgrading that to immunity to ability score drain of the chosen ability.

 

This also interacts in an interesting way with the class’s take on the mystery feature: We begin play with one, but idolators don’t get class skills or bonus spells from the mystery chosen; they start play with one revelation chosen from the mystery’s list and get another one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. As a mostly aesthetic nitpick – the class feature should specify that idolator levels count as oracle levels for the purpose of revelation prerequisites. The unique thing, though, would e that revelation DCs are governed by 10 + ½ class level + the ability score modifier of the favored ability chosen! Yep, that means Constitution, Dexterity, etc. could be the governing attributes for these DCs! This has me intrigued, so let’s take a look on how this all comes together!

 

Now, an idolator is obviously also defined by the idol, right? An idol has a base form and subtype and sports the deity’s alignment. It understands and speaks common and all of the idolator’s languages. An idol is only destroyed upon being educed to negative hit points equal to the idol’s Constitution score. The idol has two forms – statue and animated. Idols remain in statue form until an idolator performs a 1-minute ceremony to animate it. This ceremony necessitates that the idolator remains adjacent to the statue. While in statue form, the idol has a hardness of 8 + the idol’s Charisma modifier. In this form, it’s generally 1 ft. tall and weighs between 10 and 20 pounds. Less portable idols could be Large or Huge, with correspondingly higher weight. Animating the statue transforms it into a Medium creature, and it remains animated until the idolator reverts it back to statue form as a standard action. Dismissal and banishment can revert an idol to statue form. Important: If the idolator is rendered unconscious or asleep, the idol IMMEDIATELY reverts to statue form! This is a small thing, but it means that “Get the priest that animated this monster!” suddenly makes sense – a small touch, but one I enjoyed. The idol, chassis-wise, is based on the unchained eidolon, though the table is provided for your convenience. A crucial difference would be that the idol does not have a max attack column, since it does not gain additional attacks with natural weapons – however, the idol may make iterative attacks when wielding the deity’s favored weapon, with which it has proficiency. The idol may not be altered to conceal it – no alter self, polymorph, etc., though invisibility et al. remain viable.

 

The idol, when damaged in either form, may be healed by healing magic, but it may also be fixed by spells à la make whole. Idols do not naturally heal hit points, and while nominally constructs, they do not get the construct traits – a fact the discerning reader will have picked up earlier, when the pdf specified the extended death threshold. Instead, they get a subtype, base form and base evolution as though they were an eidolon. Idols don’t have an evolution pool, and they eat and sleep and breathe, but unlike mortals do: Being in statue form constitutes resting, and the idol must rest 8 hours in a 24 hour interval. (“We must raid the temple while the idol sleeps!”) While the idolator does the preparation/resting routine, he burns incense and offers sacrifices of negligible cost to the idol – idols thus can be affected by harmful gasses. Idols may not wear armor, but do qualify for receiving construct modifications, which is an interesting differentiation angle. Now, as an aside, bioconstruct modification makes no sense for an idol, so having a prohibitive list would have made sense, but that is me nitpicking.

 

The idol begins play with darkvision 60 ft., gets Bluff, Craft, Knowledge (religion), Perception, Sense Motive and Stealth as class skills, +4 of their choice. Idols that gain a fly speed also get Fly as a class skill – nice catch there! An idol begins play with two cleric domains known, chosen from the deity the idol represents, gaining their domain powers and treating the idol’s idolator’s class level as cleric level for the purpose of determining their powers and gaining new ones. Domain powers usually governed by Wisdom instead employ Charisma as the governing key ability score. Subdomains etc. qualify. At 1st level and every level thereafter, the idol chooses a spell from these cleric domains chosen. The idolator’s class level must be at least twice the spell’s level for it to be selected – slightly odd: This means that the idol can’t actually cast the SP chosen at first level, only unlocking it at 2nd level. 1st – 3rd spell level SPs may be used 3/day, 4th to 6th level 2/day, and higher level spells may be used 1/day. A single spell may be chosen multiple times, increasing the daily uses by 1. Material costs higher than 5 gp must be provided for, in spite of the SP nature, but the costs for these components are halved. (minor nitpick: There is a missed italicization here. Idols begin with a starting Charisma of a whopping 17. Minor complaint: A sidebar is a bit confusing: “As an idolator gains levels, his idol gains specific evolutions based on its subtype as if it were an eidolon.” – this directly contradicts the class table and other class features – the text here is probably referring to the abilities gained by a subtype’s base evolution class feature, at least that’s how I read it. Ability score increases are gained at 5th, 10th, and 15th level.

 

Now, beyond the idol, the class gets their own unique class features dubbed “Sacrifices” – the first of these is gained at 2nd level, with additional ones gained every even level thereafter. There are more than 6 pages of these provided, but they probably could have fitted on fewer pages: The sacrifices are indented below the main ability, and the layout already has pretty wide borders, which makes the pages depicting these look pretty empty. Anyways, as you can glean from the amount provided. Some of these are exclusive for some favored ability scores and/or domains chosen; to give you an example, you can have multiple forbidden languages, and when having the same class skill as your idol, you may roll twice, taking the better result. Charging sans penalty to speed imposed by armor, Improved Unarmed Strike, 20 ft. burrow speed, causing bleed damage when flanking with the idol (there are various flanking upgrades), charmed life, +2 AC for purposes of determining crits versus the idolator, deathless fervor, increasing darkvision building up to seeing through magical darkness, resistance to an energy for Constitution based idolators, divination SPs…and there are some unique tricks: Lock down one magic item slot for a permanent +1 luck bonus to a save that increases to +2 at 10th level. This one is particularly interesting for low magic games. Flight granted scales and retains the implicit 5th level cap for unassisted flight. There also are flavorful choices, like offering a 10 gp meal to the idol to be exempt from requiring food or drink for a week. You can also share potions between idolator and idol, granting both the benefits, though this takes a full-round action and provokes AoOs. Better Stealth, integrating a magic item into the idol, gaining additional, limited SPs, gaining scent…some cool ones. Alas, one of them is obviously a cut copy paste from another source, mentioning a reaction as triggering action, which does not exist in PFRPG. That should be an immediate action. Also odd: On one page of these, the font used around an artwork suddenly changes to a different type, which makes the page a bit harder to read.

 

Starting at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the idolator gets a bonus feat, with the list governed by the favored ability score chosen. The capstone allows for the choice of one of 4 different ones, three of which are apotheosis-style abilities, while one sports one time miracle and 1 true resurrection, usable by the idol once as an immediate action.

 

The class comes with favored class options for the core races + orc, and there are 3 different archetypes for the class: The earthly divinity archetype locks the idolator out of variant multiclassing, since that’s basically the angle: The idol loses subtype and base evolutions and instead grants variant multiclassing style abilities at 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th,16th and 20th level. These benefits have been reproduced for your convenience, and encompass the pre-ACG classes. So no, there is no occult support here. There also is an issue here: These benefits can yield animal companions, familiars, etc., and that is problematic regarding companion stacking and interaction. Not a fan. The strange font-glitch also can be found on one page here. The revelator replaces the 6th and 9th level revelation, and the 11th level sacrifice with material component less, improving divination SPs. At 4th level, the revelator can share the benefits of a revelation with a willing target for 24 hours via a 1-minute ritual. During this duration, the revelator loses access to the revelation, though the revelation may be revoked as a standard action. I get what this ability tries to do, but it is a bit rough in the details: Does the recipient use the idolator’s stats to determine the efficiency of revelations loaned? What about revelations with limited uses/durations that need to be spent in increments? Is the limit persistent between characters or not? What about revelations that build on others? Do they cease to function upon the prerequisite revelation being traded away? Does the recipient have to meet minimum level requirements, if any? As written, alas, RAW not 100% functional.

 

The wordgiver is basically the Moses-style archetype and loses the mystery and revelation class features, instead gaining a tablet. Once per day, the tablet may be used to cast any cleric/oracle spell, using class level as caster level and the favored ability score as governing modifier. The spell’s level must be half class level or lower (here, the minimum caveat is properly implemented), and an additional such wildcard spell is gained at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. Damaged tablets restore their hit points upon resting, and when destroyed, they may be replaced after one week in an 8-hour ritual costing 200 go x class level. The tablet may be hurled as a thrown weapon with a range increment of 10 ft. Annoying: Since the wordgiver does not have Throw Anything, unlike the alchemist, this means that he takes a -4 penalty to atk with the tablet. The tablet, upon impact, deals 1d6 times class level energy damage to the target, with the energy type associated with the deity. No further guidance is granted there…so what if I worshiped Nethys? Free choice? The fact that the table can be thrown thus also is a bit odd, considering that the subsequent spell-upgrades granted don’t yield additional tablet – you have but one. 7th level’s bonus feat is replaced with Leadership.

 

There is a per se interesting suggested variant rule regarding moral ambiguity, which mirrors many of my own sentiments, but as often before, the like tends to take a lot of time to implement concisely, and what’s presented here cannot really comprehensively cover the repercussions of doing so; thus, I’d strongly discourage attempting to do so, even though personally, I do believe that a big book to make the game more shades of grey-y may be a smart choice. The pdf also includes 4 magic items: chime of divine summons may be rung 1/day as a standard action – 10 minutes after that, the idol appears adjacent to the idolator. The delay here is interesting from a narrative angle: “Look, I’m unarmed. Yeah, you can bind me and put me in shackles. You’re throwing me in a cell? Oh boy, what should I do….” Divine clay of mending can be used to heal the idol. Eyes of the idol lets you see through the idol’s eyes. The rotulus of command draws heavily from the Golem of Prague myth – place a simple order in the idol’s mouth, with conditions, have it execute it. Simple, yet cool. We end the pdf with a sample level 5 human idolator using the mystery of lore and his idol.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal and rules-language level, are both rather good – very good, in fact, though there are a few minor blunders here and there. The archetypes in particular feel a bit like afterthoughts and like they received less care. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard that enhances the quasi-Mesopotamian vibe of the class. Artwork is a blend of new full color pieces and fitting stock art – though it should be noted that these manage to all invoke the same ancient flavor. Layout –wise, I think that the sacrifice ability-arrays pages look a bit empty. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

This collaboration between Aaron Hollingsworth and Mark Hart deserves applause for a couple of things: The class is wholly cognizant of the power of the idol, and is structured thus in a clever way to account for its power. The flexible chassis allows for really fine differentiation between different favored ability score idolators, and from mystery to revelations and domains, there is a TON of potential to customize these fellows. No two idolators will be truly alike. Indeed, this hybrid class does have its own distinct identity that renders it distinct from its parents in a rather fun way.

 

The idolator has a distinct flavor and takes the flexibility it provides into account. In fact, this is a hybrid class that I consider rather worthwhile – it is intriguing, and the small tweaks to rules and the distinct flavor make it feel unique. While the minor hiccups and, in particular, the less refined archetypes do mar this slightly, I consider the base class to still be worth checking out. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this flavorful hybrid class here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 172018
 

Stone Fields of Azoroth (OSR)

This is a bit different: The Stone Fields of Azoroth represent a mini-sandbox of sorts, and the deal includes 3 different pdfs as well as a .png-map. Said map depicts the village of Bad Water and looks charmingly hand-drawn. Much to my chagrin, no player-friendly version sans numbers and the like is included.

 

Rules-system wise, these pdfs adhere to Swords & Wizardry, though, as always, adapting the content to another old-school rule-set is pretty simple. AC is presented as ascending. Magic items are bolded in text. Monsters get full stats, while NPCs note their class levels, if any, and their actual profession in the context of the village. Now, this bundle of sorts presents a sandbox of sorts – two of the pdfs depict the “adventure-locations”: Book 2 presents a 6-room mini-dungeon, while Book 3 sports basically a climactic multi-stage encounter in the wilderness. The only maps for these also double as the front covers of these books, showing the region inside a circle in the middle of the front cover. Oddly, no .png maps for them are provided, even though the covers do make clear that these should indeed exist. While the map of the mini-dungeon sports squares, the like can, alas, not be said about the one that depicts the area of the confrontation on book 3’s cover, making dimensions somewhat opaque.

 

Book 1 is 20 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 17 pages of content.

 

Book 2 clocks in at 8 pages, with the front cover acting as the map – and all pages sport content.

 

Book 3 also clocks in at 8 pages, with one page devoted to a nice “Thank you”-message, leaving us with 7 pages for this one.

 

All pdfs are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), and the font-size is pretty large, which makes it feasible to print out 4 pages on a given sheet of paper. As for level-range, I’d suggest a well-diversified party, and difficulty-level-wise, this is tough – the finale can easily result in a TPK due to a few bad rolls. As for level range, I’d probably situate this somewhere around the level 3 – 5 range.

 

Now, while the books are numbered, they are not necessarily be required to be run in sequence, though it is very likely, and suggested, that the PCs begin exploring the village of Bad Water.

 

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

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All righty, only GMs around? Great! So, Book I begins with a handy overview of the keyed locations with names noted, making that aspect pretty GM-friendly, The services available are also explicitly noted here, which is a comfort-plus. The village of Bad Water is depicted in LAVISH detail: We begin with a handy overview noting the high-quality stone and how it makes farming challenging, while also briefly touching upon terrain features…but it’s the NPCs and homes that make this stand out: Each and every NPC in the village is discussed. Every house, every farm aid. All have names, all have agendas, all have things that drive them and characters. Tim Shorts really play to is strengths as an author here, managing to conjure a vision of interesting and evocative folks that feel surprisingly multi-faceted: Much like authors like Stephen King in a fantasy context, his “small people” feel alive, with all the foibles and flaws of the conditio humana in full display. In short: This village is inspired and feels organic, detailed and alive – it may well be this settlement that makes you get this, and personally, I consider the village worth the asking price. It’s really worth the praise and shows a keen insight into the human(oid) mind. Bad Water, as written, is a place you will want to use.

 

Now, unbeknown to most residents, the stone fields also are the place where a civilization once fell down, and this ties in with the adventuring locales. The connections between them, alas, remain somewhat opaque and remain open to GM placement.

 

Book 2, the one depicting the mini-dungeon, takes places in the “Last Temple of Praxus”, a recently unearthed temple of a long-forgotten deity of imprisonment. That being said, chances are decent that the PCs will be sent fleeing: The first monster herein would be a screamer, an undead that screams every round (no idea regarding the range of the scream) that can scream while it attacks. It has two claws, so two screams per round? No idea. On a failed save, the PCs will have to run away for an hour. Yeah, that can becoming pretty annoying. Anyways, the second unique creature herein, the manifestation of hopelessness, is not only mechanically more interesting (it splits, ooze-style) and has unique effects for its attacks, with a save to negate. Alas, no durations for these effects are noted anywhere, nor how you can get rid of them. Are they curses? On the plus-side, a couple of scrolls and the context here allows the PCs to discern and piece together some aspects of the background story. As a minor complaint: The PCs may get a rod of cancellation herein and potentially thus lose all magic items, so if you#re stingy regarding magic, this is one aspect to look out for.

 

Now, ultimately, the PCs will find a statue of a pretty mighty warrior wielding two short swords – that would be Samsus X, last champion of Praxus. He is petrified, and he is mad and animates if someone enters the room – the erstwhile champion/tyrant of the forgotten deity makes for a deadly enemy, being a fully statted 7th level fighter. Samsus X was devoted to his divine liege and offered sacrifice – but had his own people turn upon him. How bad were things? The folks rather worshiped devils than be subject to his whims. Yeah, pretty bad.

 

Praxus indeed seems to be a rather nasty god: He has created items called imprisonment stones, one of which holds the infernal commander still hidden from the world. They also detonate, but don’t specify how much damage they can withstand etc. Samsus X is deadly courtesy of his save or suck blades – each of the blades can immobilize a target hit that fails a save. Thankfully, they require blood, and eventually, quests to maintain their power, which means that triumphant PCs will have to think twice. Besting the erstwhile champion and destroying the stone will have the prison of infernal Azoroth manifest once more, though a shrouded figure, Praxus’ last vestige of power, will manifest, attempting to recruit the PCs. Failure to comply results in easily one of the most lethal encounters herein, as 14 (!!!) animated chains drop from the ceiling to attack.

 

Book 3, then, is pretty apocalyptic: A darkness has fallen of a part of the stone fields (not sure how big the section is, though) and temperatures have dropped to freezing: Approaching the darkness will make the PCs encounter one local fighting with 2 imps – the man is crazy, and the imps, well, are deadly. Worse: Two more are waiting in the wings. Since we’re talking old-school gaming, this means that the PCs will face 4 enemies with save or die stings. Ouch. More imps will assault the PCs as soon as they enter combat with another creature here. Within 5 monoliths, one of which lies shattered (that one was tied to the imprisonment stone, there is an armor, bound by mithril threads. While the threads can only be cut with +3 or higher weapons the PCs are unlikely to have, the monoliths may well be destroyed. Doing so unleashes a bulette, an insect swarm, and a save-or-die spore-cloud. Once the monoliths are destroyed, the mithril threads holding the armor fall from the item and unleash Azoroth. The armor is actually a custom-made magic item, an armor of imprisonment made by Praxus’ clergy. Azoroth, with AC 24, after all these save-or-die-saves, makes for a hardy horned devil type-foe with a short-range fear aura. His damage capability falls behind that of e.g. glabrezu etc. and he has no XP value noted – which btw. extends to all creatures within this supplement.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty bad. There are rules-relevant deviations that make understanding how some critters work hard. On a formal level, the often nice prose suffers from verbs, sentence-fragments etc. missing. There are a lot of these instances. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column b/w-standard. The pdfs sport a couple of nice, original b/w-artworks. The full-color map of the village is nice, but the lack of a player-friendly version is a bit of a bummer. The lack of full-sized artworks for the adventure-sites of Book 2 and 3 are puzzling. Annoyingly, none of the three books come with any bookmarks.

 

Tim Shorts’s “Stone Fields of Azoroth” constitute a mixed bag, if there ever was one; on one hand, we have a massive, inspired and smart village that feels alive in the best of ways. I love it. On the other hand, formal deviations, the aforementioned map snafus…these do somewhat compromise this offering. The mini-dungeon is pretty hardcore and difficult, but in a (mostly) fair way; however, the finale is a ridiculous assortment of save or dies thrown at the PCs, and is imho not challenging, just frustrating – which is a pity, for the atmosphere is great. The structural issue of the locations and their relation to each other in a spatial sense also represents a detriment here.

 

This was once a mythoard exclusive, and this makes me think that it was written with a strict deadline: The village shows the care and detail we expect from the author, but the finale in particular feels rushed. The numerous glitches also add to this impression. With some careful editing and a bit more gestation, some smart connections and a timeline or the like, this could have been an impressive 5-star achievement; as written, it sports an assortment of serious flaws. With these, I can’t rate this as highly as I’d like to – if you are interested in the village, check it out. I have to rate the entirety, though – and for the whole packaged deal, I can’t go higher than 3 stars.

 

You can get this flawed, but interesting supplement/module here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 162018
 

Ithreians of Porphyra

This installment of the „…of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 35 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content. These pages have been laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper if you print this out.

 

All right, so we begin this supplement with a deity write-up of Ithreia, also known as “Old Mother Owl” or as the “Queen of the Blinding Wind” – a deity of birds, sea and winter. The deity is Lawful neutral, with 4 domains and subdomains and the pilum as favored weapon. The write-up goes above what you’d expect – it also features an obedience and evangelist, exalted and sentinel boons – the second of the evangelist boons is particularly cool: It lets you tread through difficult terrain, and allies may follow in your footsteps, but only for a round! The boons, as a whole, are intriguing indeed.

 

As a deity associated with the elements, Ithreia is particularly loathed by the elemental lords, and her legend, realm and divine relations are explained in well-written detail, making full use of Porphyra’s unique cosmology. The write-up also sports notes on her holy texts and holdings and even features cool (get it, because ice….Ouch. Yeah, 2 cents into the bad pun jar…) aphorisms and a fully depicted spell preparation ritual. 2 meaningful and well-written religion traits are included as well, and worshipers of Ithreia can call different creatures – these minor spellcasting option changes add some nice details to the write-up. The pdf also notes divine servants. So far, so amazing!

 

Now, as far as class options are concerned, we get a variant of the less than impressive Accursed class that exchanged positive/negative energy resistance with cold resistance. (Boring.) The icebreaker is an archetype of the armjack hybrid class, who replaces bardic knowledge with +1/2 class level to Swim, Acrobatics, Survival, Climb profession (sailor) and Knowledge (religion) pertaining to Ithreia. Instead of versed with armor, we get Endurance and scaling cold resistance. At 6th level, the archetype can endure elements via cry to arms. The way in which the duration works here requires a bit of close reading – this could be slightly tighter. At 19th level, the archetype gains the option to use cry to arms to shatter ice/crystalline surfaces.

 

The pdf also sports quite a few different bardic masterpieces, with Blizzard’s Lament netting you an aura that staggers and blinds nearby targets with a save to negate. There is also one for blindsesne and one that nets allies within 30 ft. +10 (!!!) to initiative. And yes, 5th level bard spell known is hardcore, but considering how rocket launcher-tag-like high level PFRPG gaming can be, this will get nowhere near my game. A crazy prepared effect is also nice, particularly since it actually manages to be uncheesable! Huge kudos there! Fortifying targets versus cold and bleeding at the cost of initiative, Perception and susceptibility versus sleep also is interesting.

 

The order of the owl for the chronicler (see Prestige Archetypes) replaces well-versed with Endurance. The archetype also replaces mass suggestion with the option to call an Ithreian 11th level cleric. (And yes, statblocks are provided!) via the capstone. The druid archetype Eye of Old Mother Owl replaces nature sense with +2 to Perception and Sense Motive and is locked into a couple of choices regarding animal companions taken via nature’s bond. At 4th level, the archetype gets to cast divination spells while wild shape’d, and retain concentration on them as a move action while in wild shape. Additionally, sense fear and discern lies may be spontaneously cast and discern lies is added to the class list. This replaces resist nature’s lure. Instead of venom immunity, Perception-penalties due to distance are quartered and the druid increases range and area of divinations cast by 50%.

 

The hermit hybrid class gets a new illumination: +4 to Stealth and Survival in snow, and immunity to cold of up to -50°F and winds of less than hurricane force. The illumination also nets commune with birdsas the spell, may look through the eyes of a bird in long range (what happens with regular sight?), and at 8th level, the hermit knows when population is dangerously depleted or groups are ailing, as if she asked via commune with nature. Okay, does this require concentration? An action? Is it instantaneous? No idea.

 

There are two hunter foci: Gyrfalcon nets a scaling fly bonus, whale a scaling Survival bonus.

 

The keener hybrid class gets two laments: One that knocks prone a target and moves it, one that allows targets healed to stand up as a swift action or move 5 ft., even through difficult terrain, sans AoOs. Does the latter count as a 5 ft. step or not?

 

We also get new kineticist wild talents: Sheltering Snow is a utility wild talent, which lets you make walls of ice and tiny hut, with 1 Burn cost to make it last longer. Squall infusion can be applied to cold blasts and has no burn cost: It dazzles the target on a failed save, regardless if the target was damaged or not. Witheout is another substance infusion is cool: It makes your kinetic blast, the squares it moves through and area of effect provide concealment; at 2 burn cost, this is feasible.

 

The gyrfalcon of the blinding wind paladin must choose a mount, which must be a roc. Instead of spellcasting, the paladin gets to forage potions, which is damn cool – particularly since this class feature may not be cheesed – only a limited amount may be maintained, and the scaling is sensible. The aura of justice is replaced with…+10 to initiative, +4 for nearby allies. OP as all hell. Kill it with fire. The paladins of Ithreia may remove penalties to ability scores (NOT damage or drain!) with a mercy and fortify allies with a bonus to Fort saves and temporary hit points.

 

The cool quartermaster class gets the pack tinkerer archetype, who receives Ride as a class skill instead of Linguistics. The archetype gets a cavalier’s mount and may apply inspection only to it. Similarly, trap evasion only applies to it. Unique and cool: Instead of repurpose mechanism, the archetype can teach his animal to activate, ready or deploy items! Love this little engine tweak. The singing Guide ranger must chooses companions as bond and may share ½ favored terrain bonuses and Endurance with allies. The archetype never falls as a result of a botched Climb checks, never falls prone on ice or due to a vessel’s movement. 11th level nets a blindsense granting song that upgrades at higher levels and replaces quarry. There is a share sense based shaman hex with scaling range and we get two shifter aspects: The gyrfalcon one is based on the falcon and replaces the minor form benefit with scaling Fly-bonuses. The Whale aspect does pretty much what you’d expect: Minor form is analogue to the hunter aspect, major provides whale-associated tricks. Nothing spectacular. Finally, storm rider skalds replaces song of strength, dirge of doom and song of the fallen with custom raging songs: The base one if a cold blast; group flight and swimming and storm control make these nice. Well-versed and versatile performance are exchanged for counting as larger for withstanding winds and scaling cold resistance.

 

The pdf also includes a total of 10 spells that focus on Ithreia’s strong leitmotifs: The cold spells here are nice and do more than just damage, and having a spell that interacts with bardic performance in place is interesting: It nets you early flight as a level 2 spell, but requires maintenance of bardic performance and thus wrecks Stealth. It may also be discharged to reroll an attack roll, which is an interesting tactical angle. Using a spell to prepare a domain/subdomain spell (prepared casters only) is also intriguing. Particularly impressive here would be the spell that manages to preserve other spells – the rules-language here is impressive indeed and it is not cheesable! I really liked this spell section.

 

The magic item section provides a custom blue bag of chosen tricks, basically the ithreian version of the classic item, as well as three new figurines of wondrous power: opal gyrfalcon, pearl owl and sapphire whale.These are more potent in the hands of Ithreians, which is something I enjoy and a notion I’d very much love to see more of in the final version of the Porphyra RPG, but that as an aside. A glass to see through snow and ice is here, and what really made me smile: Remember that preserve spell trick I mentioned? Well, ithreians get an item class that are LITERALLY spells in preservation jars. Great meta-commentary and a way to make them, well, fun!

 

We end the pdf with a CR orcam armjack icebreaker and a CR 10 harpy cleric.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ no-frills 1-column standard with purple highlights and the pdf sports a few really nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes with EXCESSIVE bookmarks, making navigation both easy and comfortable.

 

David N. Ross is a very precise designer; he has created quite a few of my favorite class options and tricks out there, from covenant magic to his illuminates and shadow weaver, there are several neat examples of what he’s capable of. This depiction of the followers of a deity is admirable in the best of ways: Ithreia and her followers come to life in this little pdf: The class options breathe the leitmotifs of their patron deity and establish a sense of cohesion and consistency I love to see. I hope that faiths and how they are presented by Purple Duck Games in the future will adhere to similar principles. Beyond the flavor, the pdf manages to provide quite a bunch of complex rules-operations within its surprisingly extensive collection of engine-tweak archetypes and class options. Now, there are a few instances where the rules are slightly less tight, but that wouldn’t irk me. I’m flabbergasted, though, by the ignorance pertaining the gross power of initiative boosts this has. The massive initiative boosts a few options herein grant are ridiculously potent in the right hands and should be purged with extreme prejudice, marring an otherwise compelling and flavorful tome.

 

That being said, these components are easy to nerf and should not dissuade you from checking this out. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, but I’m afraid I can’t round up for it.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!

 

Missed the cool quartermaster? You can find the class here!

 

The Hermit class can be found here!

 

The Armjack class can be found here!

 

The Keener class can be found here!

 

The Prestige Archetypes compilation can be found here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 162018
 

The Manor #9 (OSR)

The 9th installment of the Manor-‘zine clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you could theoretically fit up o 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this ‘zine.

 

Now, first things first: Unlike previous iterations of the ‘zine, this one assumed the Swords & Wizardry Light (SWL) rules set as the default OSR-rules-set employed. As always, conversion to other old-school systems remains relatively simple. Upgrades to Swords & Wizardry Continual Light (SWCL) are simple enough, but are not done for you – you’ll have to extend the level-range by hand beyond 3rd.

 

After an introductory page, we get something I applaud: Actual gods for the clerics featured in the minimalistic rules of the SWCL –and each of the gods noted here are defined by basically a tweak on the cleric base class, differentiating between the adherents of different gods. I wholeheartedly welcome this notion, and 4 such gods and associated cleric variants are provided, the first of whom would be the exemplar, devoted to the War God Sarranth. Exemplars get linear HD progression (1 per level) until third level. Saves start at 14 and improve by one every level, and in a helpful manner (if you want to upgrade to SWCL), BHB is noted to improve at first and 4th level. (SWL only goes up to 3rd level). The exemplars have no armor or weapon restrictions and favor spears. They get +2 to saves versus death and poisons and gain a first level spell slot at 1st level. Taking cure wounds I nets the inverse as well. Their turn ability inflicts 1d3/class level against undead instead of the usual benefit and beginning equipment is noted.

 

The clerics of Delaquain are called Lions, and their base chassis is identical to the Exemplars, save that they may choose a 1st level spell at 1st level to choose from either cleric or magic-user list and they get normal turning. Curates, the cleric of Lavinia, a goddess of healing, have the same HD and save-progression, but only get a BHB at 3rd level, which makes extrapolating higher level BHB gains a tad bit harder when upgrading to SWCL. They are restricted to leather armor and daggers and staves, get the same save bonus vs. death and poisons, and they get a 1st level spell slot at 1st level and “additional Cure Wounds I” – the verbiage could be a tad bit clearer here. Their turning paralyzes undead, but requires maintenance each round, which is a nice compromise and preferable to the oftentimes annoying fleeing. The clerics of Possimium, a god of nocturnal creatures, share the chassis of the Curates, and are known as Parsons. They share the rules chassis of Curates, but have no armor restrictions, are limited to blunt weapons and get the 1st level spell slot as well as access to the charm person spell. They turn undead normally.

 

As a whole, I found myself enjoying these cleric kits/specializations. They offer solid tweaks on the class, and, while rules-verbiage isn’t always perfect, add some much needed flavor to SWL-clerics without unduly complicating the simplicity of the system.

 

The next page provides 6 different monster traits that cover classic abilities for SWL monsters – these include burrowing, being diseased, a concisely defined drain ability, pack mentality, etc. A 3d6 random encounters section is helpful, though it should be noted that monster damage does increase beyond SWL’s confines – the hill giant, for example, inflicts 2d6. This is analogue to SWCL, but, deepening on what you’re looking for, is something to bear in mind. Nice: The random encounters are not simply lists of critters – each one has a bit of lore and a small description to contextualize it. Treasure, if any, is noted.

 

The next chapter provides the Crooked Man, which would be something cool: A semi-legal dungeon-tavern that sometimes is open, sometimes isn’t – it can be slotted painlessly into even mega-dungeon campaigns and sports notes on determining randomly the beverages available. The tavern also comes with a nice b/w-full-page map that is player-friendly! Big kudos! The write-up also includes three fully statted NPCs, all of whom receive their own, nice b/w-artworks. The pdf concludes with explaining the concepts of hard silver and death coins.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good – not perfect, but better than in some installments. Layout adheres to a no-frills b/w-1-column standard and the pdf sports surprisingly nice b/w-artworks. The b/w-cartography similarly is pretty neat – doubly so since you can easily use the map as a handout. Kudos indeed! Alas, the ‘zine does not have any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

 

Tim Shorts’ ninth installment of The Manor benefits from using SWL/SWCL as the rules-set. It’s obvious that the author likes and enjoys the system, and similarly, the rules are tighter than they sometimes were in the past. While a few deviations from strict conventions and the like exist, this inexpensive ‘zine does offer some fun options for fans of the stripped-down, rules-lite iteration of Swords & Wizardry. Now, it doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but it is a fun and handy offering. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this ‘zine here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 162018
 

Rampaging Monsters (revised edition) (NGR)

The revised edition of this little generator clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page inside of back cover (with a nice little artwork of a slimy golem thanking us for the reading the file, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, as we’ve come to expect by Zzarchov Kowolski’s books, this one sports a rather neat and dry sense of humor, evident from the introduction onwards – sometimes, you don’t have the time to prepare a new plot, right? You’ll need filler, because “that Golden Girls marathon doesn’t watch itself”, to paraphrase the supplement. Well, the solution this booklet proposes is to generate a rampaging monster that scours the countryside!

 

The generator provided here indeed allows you to generate a creature, depending on your speed and familiarity with Neoclassical Geek Revival (NGR)-rules, in less than 5 minutes, so the convenience angle is definitely fulfilled – you could, in theory, do this behind the screen while the PCs are shopping, for example. Now, an important note here: Unlike many offerings by the author, this is NOT a dual-statted NGR/OSR-product – we have only Neoclassical Geek Revival support here and thus this does not translate too well to e.g. S&W or LL since NGR (which you should check out!) is pretty far away from standard OSR-rules.

 

All righty, that out of the way, how do we proceed? Well, first, we think about the monster’s size in relation to humans and then, we take a look at attributes – 6 values are provided, allowing you to quickly and easily generate scores with descriptors – very dexterous monsters would have Agility (A) 16, very clumsy ones instead Agility 7 – simple, quick, convenient. If in doubt, you revert to rolling 3d6. Now, in the new version, these pieces of information are clearly assigned mini-tables, and they employ one-letter abbreviations – this is made possible due to some rules-nomenclature changes of the system in its latest iteration. Then, you determine how a monster behaves and assign pies to the monster as though it was an NPC. Does it stalk its prey? Rogue. Bruiser? Fighter. Does it spread plague? Priest. You get the idea. While not all abilities may seem like they seamlessly apply, the pdf provides a bit of guidance there. The new iteration also provides a suggestion for when pie pieces of fool would make sense.

 

Here, the pdf becomes actually valuable beyond convenience for the GM – for next up, we get combat tricks…and if you recall my review of NGR, you should know how much I like the modular combat and its tactical depth…in spite of how easy to grasp and run it is. Size 8 monsters may e.g. damage foes by jumping up and down; shaking vigorously can cost grappled targets their actions, etc. – while these may not look like much, they can actually be employed in rather cool ways. If you’re like me and absolutely ADORED “Shadow of the Colossus” back in the PS2-era, you may be smiling right now – yep, the content herein does allow you to create such scenes…though, this being NGR, they will be much deadlier than in SoC…but the cheers will be louder. Believe me. Snatch attacks, knock-down assault with wings…pretty cool. This design-paradigm also extends to innate monster spells, which translate just as seamlessly to NGR. The examples cover the cool basics – breathing fire. Breathing exploding balls of fire…and LAZER-EYES[sic!]. Yes, this is a misspelling in the pdf. Yes, it made me cringe. Still, laser-eyes? Heck yes! Here, we can also see some system-changes: Breathing explosive balls of fire, for example, now either affects areas or Long Missile Range, and the innate spells of monsters no longer have a complexity rating, which makes sense to me.

 

Anyways, so now we have a monster…but why does it rampage? Motivation is up next – 6 basic ones, ranging from hunger to greed and malice, add at least a little bit of depth to the critter created.

 

Need a hamlet to destroy? Roll a d12 and a d8 and compare it with a table of 24 entries – 12 for the first part and 12 for the second part of the name. The position of the dice denote which one you’ll use for the first part and which for the second. These names will also hint at the peculiarities of the place – hamlets named “Carp-something” will e.g. sport ponds etc. Now, the new version has the two columns more cleanly laid out, so that’s a plus.

The pdf sports 4 sample rewards for slaying the critter.

 

Finally, if you absolutely have 0 time left, a sample giant, a big statue, a wyrm and a T-rex are provided, should you need a monster to drop immediately. The presentation of these monster stats imho really benefits from the new presentation: It’s clearer, using bolding and smart structure to make reading the statblocks swifter. Obviously, the stats have been revised and adjusted to reflect the new version of the game as well. However, in the new version, we get more: A wyvern, a giant skull floating in a pool of ectoplasms, a giant spider and a cockatrice complement this section now, doubling the sample monsters featured.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – I noticed no glaring issues in the rules and only minor typos. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The pdf use fitting b/w-artwork, but is mostly text – the pdf’s new layout is much cleaner and makes the pdf easier to read. Information is compartmentalized better, and the overall impression is one of a more professional file. Utterly puzzling: In stark contrast to the previous version of the file, this one has no bookmarks, making navigation slightly harder.

 

Zzarchov Kowolski’s little toolkit is still helpful, fun and easy to use; in particular the combat tricks and monster abilities, both mundane and magical, made me smile from ear to ear. The generator does what it’s intended to do…and yet, it made me realize how much I would have liked a full-blown monster-expansion book for NGR. The tricks and abilities presented are cool and fun and made me crave more…to the point, where I almost lost sight of what this tries to be and what it doesn’t try to be. This is not a big monster-enhancer toolbox for NGR – it is a generator for the time-starved referee caught unprepared…and though I very much would have loved to see a big monster book, and though this made me CRAVE more, it would not be fair to rate this generator according to a premise which it never intended to fulfill. As a generator for monsters ravaging the country-side, this does a great job – not a perfect one (it is hampered a bit by its economical size and the corresponding loss of depth that it could have had), but yeah. Now, while it *looks* like the revised version is shorter, that’s not the case – the new presentation is just tighter, and we actually get more content! While I’d usually contemplate upgrading my final verdict, the loss of bookmarks in the revised edition does partially mitigate the benefits of the streamlined layout and additional content. Thus, this remains a neat book for NGR-referees that is well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this revised edition here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 162018
 

Hark! A Wizard! (revised edition) (NGR)

The revised edition of this supplement clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages blank in the back, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Now, first things first: Unlike most books by Zzarchov Kowolski, this is NOT a dual-stat book. This toolkit is intended for NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival); while there is some value to be found within this for other rules-systems, but in the end, the majority of this books contents NGR-material. I assume familiarity with NGR in this review.

 

So, what is this about? Well, I think that pretty much any GM has encountered the random wizard issue before. Unlike sorcerers and similar spontaneous casters, the wizard sports a big issue for the referee: The reward-to-work-ratio for making wizards for random encounters and anything other than BBEG often just isn’t right. Making spellbooks and selecting spells is a chore…and with some bad luck, your cool, detailed wizard will be crited to smithereens after one spell…or perhaps before that.

 

Things get worse when books note “choose xyz spells” or “1d6 random spells” – it honestly infuriates me. Anyways, this book is intended to remedy this issue to a degree in NGR. The first20-entry table contains general grimoire names for wizards to hold on to; after that, we get 8 different tables, 8 entries strong each, with different themes like hedge magic, wizard schools, quasi-religious tomes, etc. – you get the idea. After that, we get the in-depth entries for the grimoires, including read-aloud texts. The read-aloud text is often inspired, and it also sports the subtle and hilarious humor of the author here and there: The Book of Aarrrgh… for example is so named due to the supernatural entity bound within, conveniently unleashed upon reading the book… The Rot on the Roots of Yggdrasil talks about the dread MiGo, here envisioned as a demon-god…or is that a misunderstanding? The referee will ultimately decide. Little handbooks, strange astrological tomes on constellations on the Western pole…you get it. Really nice diversity here! There have been minor improvements here: E.g. the text missing in “Secrets of the Nightsky” now properly notes its sorcerous rite as “A master of constellations: Dead Pixie in a Jar” – this is not a spell, but Pixie Dust may be reached from the corpse.

The pdf then provides a brief and succinct write-up pertaining the use of the Sage power to reverse-engineer the abilities of strange creatures as spells. It’s a third of a page and works perfectly in conjunction with NGR. The aforementioned pixie autopsy has been added to the list of examples featured here.

 

The remainder and lion’s share of the book, though, would be taken up by a massive selection of different spells for NGR. They note their respective templates to difficulty, cost, range and complexity and add some further depth to the engine. Take “A Master of Constellations”, which allows you to set a condition to a spell to activate or deactivate, tying magic to astrological or astronomical conditions, explaining a metric ton of unique complex properties and things you see in many a module…and, obviously, letting players for once use this type of thing can be really rewarding! And yes, toggling on/off can also be done with this one. Organization is tighter here: “A Master of Constellation” no longer can be found at the start of the spell presentation, instead featring among the “M” entry of the alphabetical presentation. It should also be noted that the new edition of NGR no longer features complexity ratings – these are thus absent from the revision. Blood Pact is a new one, as is Conjure Poltergeists. The easily cheesable “Defiler of Gaia” spell has been eliminated, thankfully. Gazing into embers via Ember Trance is a nice new one that lets you scry targets, and “A Mighty Yarn” allows you to command ropes and the like. There also is a spell to interact with sizes, and these are pretty potent in NGR.

 

Generating illusions in a limited square, DR, enhancing items by inscribing earth runes of “Base of the Mountain”, concealing yourself in starlight…the spells have a subtle aesthetic that hearkens closer to actual real-world beliefs regarding magic, less to the flashy magic-laser-beams. This ultimately makes the chapter feel more alive and evocative. That being said, there are damaging spells – like a conical “Bee Swarm” blast or one that lets you use Beelzebub’s hellish flies. Spells for gaining influence via “BFF” are here, and there is a spell, where you can conjure forth vents, inflicting a nasty disease that may cause the target to return from death as an undead, making great use of NGR’s engine.

 

Speaking of spells that evoke themes we are familiar with and that tie in with game-mechanics: What about drinking blood under moonlight to replenish mana? The new version now causes intoxication, preventing abuse by less scrupulous PCs. “Carrion’s Debt Foreclosed” can generate undead from carrion eaters and there is a representation of containing spells in bubbling broth or potion, though its power will decrease over the course of time – so yeah, no stockpiling…and power-loss once more ties in perfectly with NGR’s spellcasting engine.

 

Now, this is something you either may like or hate, but the “Congress of Yig” no longer requires sexual intercourse with serpents, instead tying into the mutation engine component. This does prevent abuse of the spell and renders its design better. It’s less icky, but, you can take care of that, should you so choose.

 

Mechanically interesting would also be “Cooled Passions”, which allows for the indefinite increase of a spell’s duration at the cost of not being able to cast the spell again; alternatively, the spell can be linked to a trigger spell, which can act as a means to end that binding. Thoroughly creepy: “Cordyceps Mammalia” does the “Last of Us”-move and animates the dead via cordyceps fungi, potentially with free-willed consequences. Yes, I am freaked out by this one.

 

Siphoning magic from eggs is also really cool, and the verbiage is now tighter and accounts for cases like mammalian eggs and those of fish etc. There would be a spell that helps eliminating mutations at the cost of stress…which may actually hasten the transformation of deep one to hybrid, for example. Funny and interesting: “Fireworks of Happyland”, which only deal damage on a 1 or 6, with 6s adding more dice for potentially brutal consequences, otherwise focusing on blinding foes temporarily.

 

The “Grand Idol of Bhaal” allows for the caster to bind demons, djinn, etc. in idols, once more codifying a classic trope within the context of the game. What about “Happily ever after”, a spell that acts as a trigger based on e.g. a prince’s kiss. Or Influence-based hypnotic gaze, appeals that damage supernatural targets or a spell to remove texts, images, etc. via” lost to the ages”? On the necromancy-side, we get a spell to animate a target you have personally drained as a vampire…and, really macabre (and some might argue, tasteless), one that animates a stillborn child as an undead. Yeah…personally, I could have done without the existence of this one. On the plus-side, strange spores, calling miniature comets and tapping into the power of e.g. eclipses makes sense and works well.

 

There is also an advanced locking spell…and Schmetterling (German for Butterfly, just fyi): A flight spell that only allows the target to be attacked in melee by non-fliers when interrupted while attacking someone in melee. There is a spell to create a portal in the shadow of objects…and one that lets you emit a horrid blast of static, white noise-like shrieking. Oh, and what about locking supernatural targets into the skulls of targets? Yes, they may be alive. Yes, those voices may either be insanity…or dread magic…Well, you get 3 guesses what Toad! does…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on either formal or rules-language levels. The new design decisions made herein are tighter and less open for abuse. The revised edition’s öayout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice, original b/w-artworks inside. The new presentation makes using the pdf smoother, so yeah, an improvement there. The content-expansion, however, is paid for with an absence of bookmarks that is puzzling and constitutes a comfort-detriment.

 

Sooo, I really liked Zzarchov Kowolski’s “Hark! A Wizard!” – but I kinda did not get what it says on the tin.

 

The official description reads: “Hark! A Wizard! Is a generator to give NPC wizards a cohesive set of spells in just a few seconds. It is a useful tool for further lowering the prep required with a game of Neoclassical Geek Revival.” This is not what I got. Not at all.

 

Did I love the cool modifications and options presented in all those spells? Yeah! The revised rules are tighter, clearer and less prone to abuse. Similarly, I really, really liked the sample read-aloud texts and diverse ideas for grimoires, making spellbooks feel, well, interesting and creative. The subtle, dark humor of the author makes reading this rules-book actually enjoyable.

 

But know what? I got this pdf because I expected a generator to make wizards quickly. Are the modifications herein capable of making the NGR-magic rules more versatile and smart? Yeah! They are! They are great. They help you make spells more unique, modify them, etc. Pretty much everything here is really cool…

 

…but it’s not a way to give NPC wizards a cohesive set of spells in a few seconds/minutes. It’s an expansion of the magic-engine. That rocks. It sports great spellbook dressing. Which once more rocks. However, as a generator to make quick wizards for NGR? Honestly, I don’t even get where that aspect is coming from. The revised edition STILL does not really offer that. Beyond the grimoires, it does not expedite the process of making a wizard in the slightest.

 

As a reviewer, that leaves me in a weird place, particularly since the revised edition had the chance to make finally good of its promise. Frankly, I should rate this down. Were I to rate this on its merits as a generator, I’d have to pronounce this a failure, as an, at best as a mixed bag. Then again, if I rated this as a spellcaster’s expansion for NGR that adds depth and fun to the already impressive magic system, then this would be a 5 star + seal of approval recommended masterpiece.

 

The matter of fact remains, though: This is NOT what it was advertised as. While I consider this to be a must-won expansion for fans of NGR, I have to take that into account as a reviewer.

 

As a wizard generator, I’d consider this to be a 2-star file. As a magic-expansion for NGR, I’d consider it to be 5 stars + seal of approval. The new content and design-wise streamlining makes this better than before, but lack of bookmarks mitigates this improvement. In the end, my final verdict will fall in between these, at 4 stars.

 

You can get this supplement here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 152018
 

Treasury of the City

This collection of items clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content. Now, as always, there is a lot of content within these pages, courtesy of Legendary Games consumer-friendly layout, so let’s take a look!

 

On the first pages, we have a list of all the items featured within this pdf, listed by price for your convenience, but before we dive into the specifics, let’s start with the new special weapon properties featured within. There are two ones that have a +1 equivalent, the first of which would be deceptive. This one adds twice the weapons enhancement bonus to Stealth and Sleight of Hand checks to keep it hidden from prying eyes, and similarly, the bonus is added to the DC of Diplomacy or Heal checks made to gather information about it – big kudos for taking that investigative aspect into account. Additionally, when striking a flat-footed or unaware target, a glamour is implanted that scrambles divinations pertaining the attack, serving as a misdirection, save that the wielder gets to decide the false information. This is genius. I mean it. This weapon quality alone may be worth getting the pdf for. This provides so many truly evocative and complex investigation angles, I can’t even begin to list them all. Easily one of my favorite special abilities for a weapon ever.

 

Partisan weapons are attuned to a city, nation, etc., and if the wielder is a member of this group, she receives a +4 insight bonus to Bluff, Disguise and Sleight of Hand to conceal it from members of other nations, cities, etc. On a critical hit versus a flat-footed humanoid member of another nation, that target must succeed a Will save or be shaken for 1 minute. The wielder also receives a +2 bonus to confirm critical hits versus other such members of different nations. The attuned nation, city state, etc. must be determined upon creation. Another winner in my book! The third one would be a +2 special ability, namely treasonous, which is basically the upgraded version of partisan, increasing its enhancement bonus by +2 versus members of other nations and +1d6 damage, which is not multiplied on a critical hit. It also makes the Sense Motive DC to determine lying etc. harder. Okay these latter two are amazing once you think about it – what they mean for nations and how they work, how that can influence the game – impressive indeed.

 

Beyond these, we also 4 armors and one specific shield. The first armor would be the crypt warden’s plate, which prevents the wearer from being raised from the dead; it’s also deathless and shows the difference between good and bad item design: In another book, the armor would just detect undead by some means. Here, however, the armor actually describes *how* it reacts to nearby undead – cold, glow, etc. – this adds a tangible sense of the magical here. The lavishly-illustrated hauberk-in-motley is so light, it does not penalize Acrobatics with the armor check penalty. Additionally, as a standard action, the wearer may make a Perform (comedy) check to fascinate nearby targets if they fail their save. A hex-caveat prevents abuse, and the armor provides synergy with the fascinate bardic performance for hideous laughter 3/day, and characters skilled in Perform (comedy) can allow for the increase of the save DCs. Quickchange studded leather is amazing: It can be donned quickly and may be loosened as part of making an Escape Artist check. Love this one! The scale of endless bureaucracy has 25 scales that may be removed, transforming into sheets of paper. 10 of these may be used to create perfect copies of nonmagical text. There also are scales that can transcribe spoken words. The transcribed request can then be forced upon recipients, compelling them to fulfill the requests. The final scales allow for the creation of compelling forgeries and the wearer’s skills pertaining law etc. are greatly enhanced. An utterly inspired armor here, one that feels truly evocative. The shield I noted would be the roofrunner’s buckler, which may be placed on the ground. A creature that’s not too heavy may place it on the ground and have it levitate short distances. Really cool!

 

The pdf also includes three specific weapons: The captive blade can be used freely while entangled or grappled, and is particularly potent when wielded against restraints, manacles, etc. The forgetful sap can add memory lapse to attacks, with a save to negate. The DC is higher for unaware targets. Creatures not armored too well can also be touch attack memory lapse’d. Thirdly, the nightwatch crossbow has a darkvision glass scope and may 1/day fire a daylight bolt. Cool.

 

The pdf contains 4 different rings: The diplomat’s signet is a low cost skill boost stacking with the other two diplomat’s items. These are wondrous items that also enhance diplomacy and net different Knowledge boosts. While I like sets, this one is, compared to the other items herein, not particularly interesting and doesn’t net anything unique beyond stacking bonuses.

 

The ring of erudite alacrity consists of 3 rings, and spinning the gold band lets you perfectly memorize one area or up to 1000 words of text, for 24 hours. This is perfectly codified. The platinum band allows for quicker spell research, magical crafting and locating written information – and yes, the item does take losing and retaking the item into account regarding total duration calculation! The final band provides a short-term initiative, Ref-save and AC-boost. Ring of the treacherous advisor mirrors the alignment of casters attempting to discern the wearer’s alignment; the second ability allows the wearer to lie even in magical zones. The scabbard ring can hold a weapon in tattoo form on the forearm of the wearer.

 

The pdf also contains a new rod, the heartstone rod, which nets blindsense – by virtue of hearing creature heartbeats! It also can affect targets with the curse of the tell-tale heart, making targets that lie or attempt to stretch the truth suffer from racing heartbeats and become both fatigued and shaken. So cool! The wondrous items with include the bracelets of freedom and are super tough to notice, netting the wearer a massive +20 bonus to hide them from inspection. These enhance Escape Artist, and, as a swift action, all but guarantee escape from manacles and similar restraints, making is a great item when attempting an extraction of a target of an infiltration under the guide of having been caught. The bracers also allow you to make inspection seem like you’re still restrained. Cool one! Candles of the sacrament blesses those nearby and may affect evil targets nearby with bane. Okay one, I guess. Chain caltrops are magical, cause bleeding damage, entangle like tanglefoot bags and are reusable. For 600 gp, certainly worth getting! Cool one!

 

The pdf also includes two stylish pieces of headwear – the cheater’s hat makes the target super lucky in games of chance, with suitable rules-representations of the effects and some nice storytelling potential. As an item for the crooked, the pilferer’s gloves complement it and have a built-in set of masterwork thieves’ tools and, beyond enhancing Sleight of Hand and Stealth used to steal or the steal maneuver, it also alerts the wielder of magical alarms and the like and may be used to dispel such effects. During Disable Device checks, the gloves can also shroud the wearer in silence. With the threefold knocker glove, you may knock on a door and emerge from another unlocked door within the same building or 100 ft. With three knocks, you can even bring allies with you. Love it! And if someone catches you – well, there’s always the toxic scabbard for light weapons, which can bypass detection and becomes even more useful for those with the poison use ability.

 

The second hat would be the detective’s cap, which enhances Perception and Sense Motive and allows for tracking In cities via Knowledge (local) – fun twist there! If you’re wearing that cap, you may also be interested in the mark of the authority, a badge that enhances your own CMB and that of nearby allies with a couple of fitting 1/day spells. With the inspector’s bullhorn you WILL be hear – it basically acts as a megaphone. It helps to Intimidate those in the cone, and the horn enhances the DC of sonic-based effects channeled through it. It also can 3/day greater command/greater forbid action, as chosen. The horn also allows the user to demand that targets show themselves, negating invisibility, blink and similar effects. If already visible, the affected targets must move towards the user. Damn useful!!

The beautifully-illustrated clockwork spotter is an intricate clockwork birdy that, upon activation, becomes a clockwork raven that can locate creatures and objects and help find the path. Really neat!

 

The cloak of the drifter helps generalize the wearer and disguise as nonspecific targets and helps blend in crowds. Nice one! Glassee gloves tightly codify making items transparent. The senator’s stole helps with social skills and allows the wearer to instruct targets with know peerage and it enhances language-dependent effects and fortifies the wearer versus charm and dominate while enhancing the wearer’s harmless charms, making them harder to dispel. At, ironically, twice the price of the stole, the ratty robes enhance Sleight of Hand and fortifies the wearer against poisons and diseases. The robe also prevents rats and rat swarms from attacking the wearer, and allows the wearer to turn into a rat swarm once per day. Even cooler: this may be used as a reactive dispersal to mitigate the worst brunt of assaults. The third such equipment would be the gorgeously-illustrated sewer suit, which acts as either a +1 leather armor or in conjunction with it, as a garment. The hood filters filth and helps versus disease and nausea and swarms. It also helps you hold your breath and allows for quicker movement through bogs etc. Cool! Finally, there would be portable waterworks, buckets that can turn into wells or fountains!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that crams a lot of information on every page, and the pdf sports some really cool, new original artworks in full color. The pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks, making navigation comfortable and smooth.

 

Jason Nelson, Victoria Jaczko and Loren Sieg show how it’s done. As befitting the names of two of these designers (Victoria meaning triumphant, Sieg being German for victory), this collection of items represents a triumphant victory: While the diplomat’s set is somewhat lame, that’s the only item herein that is not amazing: Even when the items are very much spell-based, they offer unique flavor, cool tweaks, and make them feel distinct. The items here are a godsend for a wide variety of campaigns, making this transcend its intended use as a Curse of the Crimson Throne plug-in. The items within this pdf are a boon for GMs struggling with making investigations or heists; any low-magic campaign will adore these; if you even remotely are interesting in espionage or heist scenarios, then this is pretty much a must-have offering. This humble pdf strings inspired items back to back, and it does so in a truly inspired manner – quality over quantity, this delivers in spades and is worth every cent. Get it! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get these inspiring items here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 152018
 

Everyman Minis: Paladin Mercies

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

On the introductory page, we get a new spell (most spellcasting classes, including occult ones qualify): Remove pain is either a 2nd or 3rd level spell. The spell nets a +4 morale bonus versus fear effects for 10 minutes, while also suppressing pain effects currently affecting the target, and acting as a counter for inflict pain. Nice one.

 

The second page contains an assortment of new paladin mercies, grouped by levels at which they become available: At 3rd level, we can find 7 new ones: These include 1 round of good hope, mitigating the entangled condition, AoO-less standing up from prone position or providing uncanny dodge for a 1 round. Cool: If you already have it, improved uncanny dodge is gained. If the target has improved uncanny dodge already, they add the paladin’s Charisma modifier to the level to determine minimum rogue levels required to affect them. A couple of these, btw., are deity, or rather, domain-granted specific. If the deity grants Artifice or War as a domain, the paladin may pick up or draw an item as part of using lay on hands. Nice! Save benefits, making a d20 roll of 10 or less count as 11 a limited amount of times per day – there are some surprisingly creative tricks here!

 

There are 8 different 6th level mercies, with one providing the aforementioned remove pain spell, another providing fire or cold resistance (or acid/electricity for another one) and another repairing items or constructs. Helping a target get out a grapple, augury and a harmless true form variant or being nourished…some creative tricks here. The pdf also has two 9th level mercies, with one duplicating break enchantment for mind-affecting effects only; paladins whose deity nets the healing domain allows for further healing at the cost of the paladin’s health.

 

Finally, there are 5 different 12th level mercies. Jester’s jaunting targets, daylight, breath of life, repairing destroyed items (and magic item repair is tightly codified) and a telepathic bond complement the pdf.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the new, 2-column artwork-bordered standard of the series and the pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need them at this length.

 

I did not expect to find anything interesting in David N. Ross’ paladin mercy-mini. They are not particularly interesting, after all, right? Well, wrong. The mercies are really interesting and offer some rather surprising modifications that offer more tactical decisions than I expected to find. This is certainly worth getting and is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars – if you have a pala, get this!

 

You can get these cool mercies here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 152018
 

GM’s Miscellany: Village Backdrops V

The fifth compilation of Village Backdrops clocks in at 89 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 82 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This massive compilation includes the following villages: Black Wyvern, Bleakflat, Byrnfort, Dawnmarsh, Farrav’n, Lanthorn, Needlebriar, Quey’s Glade, Ronak, Skaalhaft, Suurin and Woodridge.

 

I have written reviews for all of these villages, discussing them in detail, so if you require detailed guidance regarding the individual villages, you may want to check out these reviews. Since I loathe repeating myself, and the actual use of a number of Village Backdrop-reviews stringed together would be of dubious use, I will leave it at that. Now, in direct comparison to the individual pdfs, we get quite a few neat new pieces of b/w-artworks, and that alone is a big plus.

 

Now, the villages, as a whole, are of the exceedingly high quality we expect to see from Raging Swan Press – no surprises there. However, it should be noted that this still is “just” a compilation – while this could have been used to fix the few more problematic components of some villages, the like has not happened. There is still mentioning of poisoning a plant creature, which RAW still doesn’t work in PFRPG. Similarly, the great magical lanterns of Lanthorn still remain opaque backdrops sans concrete rules. This is a compilation of files – nothing less, nothing more.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the book features great b/w-artworks. The b/w-cartography by Tommi Salama and Maciej Zagorski is amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two different versions – one optimized for screen use and one intended for printing out. I can’t comment on the print version, as I do not own it.

 

John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Gomez, Richard Green, David N. Ross, Amber Underwood and Mike Welham are all top-tier authors, and it shows in these settlements. The villages within are evocative, fun and cool – and yet. In direct comparison, the compilation has missed the opportunity of refining the less amazing villages within, updating and improving them, which would not have been hard. This compilation could have been one of the strongest in the long and storied history of high-quality backdrops in the series, a jewel. The lack of further refinement, however, does hurt the compilation somewhat. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a great book of backdrops, but it could have been a great one. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this book here on OBS!

 

You can directly support raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.