Jul 062015
 

Path of the Stranger

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This installment of Legendary Games’ mythic paths-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page SRD, 3 pages advertisements, 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of raw content detailing this new mythic path, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Now first things first – unlike the previous installments in this series, here, we have a mythic path that is very much intended to be used by the PCs, not their opposition, so that would be one change of focus. The stranger itself is an iconic concept and if the basic renditions of the trope it is based on is not readily apparent to you – this mythic path is about skirmishing and subterfuge, both mundane and magical. Tiers net +4 Hp and the path offers a selection of 3 stranger maneuvers: Fleet Charge lets you expend mythic power as a swift action to move up to your speed, while also executing a ranged or melee attack at full BAB at any point during the movement. painful reckoning allows you to use an immediate action to convert 5 points of damage taken per tier to nonlethal damage (or ignore nonlethal damage of said amount) and adds a luck bonus buff to AC/atk equal to 1/2 tier, to damage and Intimidate checks versus said foe equal to full tier. Surprise strike lets you expend mythic power as a swift action to execute a melee or ranged attack versus a target within 30 ft., which treats the target as flat-footed and adds tier to damage.

 

Of course, the pdf also provides a diverse array of path abilities gained at 1st tier and every tier thereafter, with some minor overlap with marshal, guardian and trickster. The path abilities allow for the learning of more stranger maneuvers, so no, you’re not locked into an either-or-situation regarding the base path ability learned. Of course, the abilities themselves are diverse – but how diverse? What about calling in favors from contacts (with full synergy for the rules from Ultimate Campaign), gaining temporary followers or even a financial aid from your associates? Want to go Zorro on foes? Nonmagical signature arcane marks that may act as distraction to hide or to demoralize foes represent just that. What about using firearms and bombs to create dispel-effects against mind-affecting effects? And yes, including a valid range-related wording. Better dodge with retributive attacks OR diverting attacks to adjacent targets. Free action reloads powered by mythic power are also interesting.

Belonging to two orders (or flexible access to an alternate domain) to represent changing allegiances is pretty nice, as is the option to gain memory lapse as an SP, while ranger strangers may grant woodland stride to allies. Hearing heartbeats akin to Daredevil and the resulting repercussions for Sense Motive. Going Conan for the purpose of Stunning Fist/Improved unarmed Strike-punching creatures larger than you would be pretty neat as well. Automatically succeeding balancing on narrow edges also makes sense to me regarding the concept. Mythic upgrades for grit, ki and panache and Batman-style nimble falling gliding can be found in these options as well.

 

What about an ability that allows you to shroud your name and identity in mystery, making it hard for other creatures to recall your presence or an option to demoralize foes seeking to scry you and adding misdirection-tricks to those foolish enough to try to spy on you? Better improvised weapons and combining withdraw with disarm can be found herein as wel as improved tricks regarding resolve. One of my favorites lets you learn adding proficiencies with exotic weapons via short training as well as allowing you to treat the weapons as not suffering from detrimental qualities or adding beneficial ones to the weapon used for a massive array of odd combinations and weapon-tinkering. I also enjoyed the wall running options alongside the tricks to blend with and move through crowds.

 

Among the 3rd tier abilities, demoralizes to react to failed attacks on you while fighting defensively, full-blown batman cape-gliding with Wingover and a crazy-prepared trick are part of the fray, though I wished the latter had a caveat for not being able to duplicate unique items like specific keys. The abilities also cover being able to use suggestions while hidden from targets. Help and immunity versus emotion-effects and pain-effects and using language-dependent effects versus the caster make for solid tricks that fit well within the tropes covered. Counter-scrying, via the aptly-named “Watching the watchmen” also is neat. Beyond the sample suggested builds, the 6th tier abilities deserve their power – what about being able to return to life upon dying when healed within a certain amount of time, provided your body remains? Becoming, quite literally, an incorporeal ghost rider. What about going, Kill Bill-style, on a roaring rampage of revenge, allowing you to return to life if slain AND temporarily gain qualities of friggin’ revenants in addition to the quarry etc.-tricks this nets anyways? OUCH! Oh, speaking of which – the capstone also nets the stranger immunity versus all movement-impeding conditions and options that force movement, including feats and maneuvers – fitting!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with copious amounts of original full-color artwork, including some gorgeous 1-page pictures. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Jason Nelson has a field day here – if you have read as many of his designs, you’ve come to expect his trademark coherent crunch that tackles complex concepts, but sometimes, he goes above and beyond it – this would be such an example, one where the design gleefully marries unobtrusive pop-culture references with superb crunch that actually manages to properly cover the concepts it is supposed to cover. This mythic path is glorious, with no bland numerical escalations and a vast multitude of utterly unique path abilities that fit the concept perfectly, while remaining distinct and above the purview of what can be achieved with mythic feats. Additionally, none of the abilities herein, while universally solid and powerful, felt broken to me and so far, I found no issues worth speaking of in this great addition to the mythic rules. Obviously, my final verdict will represent this excellence, with a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool mythic path here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 062015
 

Gossamer Worlds: Incursion Earth 626 (Diceless)

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This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Incursion Earth 626 is one of the infinite allotopias (i.e. alternate earths) than can be reached via the Grand Stair – but is a unique one. In 1985, reality cracked – this time not due to earth’s humans screwing it up, but due to an extremely expansionist empire called the “Incursion” piercing the veils of reality. These technocratic conquerors botched something, though, when they arrived in this reality and mankind suddenly was faced with a vast influx of psionic power – from pyrokinesis to uncontrollable telepathy, the sudden rise of powers left the world almost in an apocalyptic state, when Switzerland, for example, paid for its lockdown with utter annihilation, becoming a creepy ghost-country. Just as things began to settle, with the powers-that-be establishing elite-squads of psionics, the incursion attacked.

 

With brutal displays that annihilated Washington D.C. and Moscow, the Incursion established supremacy over earth, rendering it one of its colonies. Now, two decades later, life remains pretty much normal for the average citizen. Once you’ve gotten accustomed to the shadows and drones, no issues. Unless you are psionically active, in which you immediately become a target for the incursion’s forces…especially if you are a psycher – one of the powerful, almost demigod-level psionicists. Speaking of which – multiple ways to handle psionics and distinguish (or not distinguish) it from sorcery are provided. The incursion’s renegade commander, Tau-Psi-5 receives full stats and beyond the threat of the incursion, the hidden remnants of the erstwhile secret service are creating their own cadre of super-psychers to reclaim earth, while Irkutsk is now the place, where a lot of earth’s psionics are brought – for what purpose, though – none knows so far.

 

Oh, and then there would be the rise of a new spiritualism, with ancient, strange psychic entities rising, possessing people and turning them into nightmarish creatures…Yes, there is a lot of lethal potential for storytelling.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.

 

Matt Banach’s Incursion Earth 626 is interesting, with a special shout out going to the interior artists Tarakanovich, Wataboku, Michael Richards, David Revoy, Justin Nichol, J.J. Tarujärvi – the artworks stand out even in this series and create an atmosphere that reminded me of Death Note’s N as a psychic in some frames, creating a unique visual style. The potential of the world is vast – from teh Incursion’s motives to the obvious potential for ALL kinds of X-men-style narratives, this place sports adventuring potential galore and is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this great Gossamer World here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 032015
 

Dear readers,

it’s that time again – here would be a list of current KS!

 

Gonzo II by Little Red Goblin Games:

This book not only comes with an open playtest, it is also funded and will bring us BATTLE BUTLERS. The Architect base class as a stretch-goal is well within the realms of possibility within these last 4 remaining days of the KS, so let’s keep our fingers crossed!

 

NeoExodus Campaign Setting by LPJr Design:

Also with only 4 days to go, this campaign setting has blown through a lot of cool stretch-goals, though personally, I’m particularly keen on seeing the new mythic and psionic chapters, so let’s hope this will cruise through one or better, both of them!

 

Wardens of the Wild by TPK Games:

My knee-jerk reaction would have been “Urgh, another elves-source-book?” – well, but this is TPK Games we’re talking about and take a look at those stretch-goal authors – yes, there are some talented folks there…ähem…and humble ole’ me. Why did I say yes to contributing? Simple – because the ideas of tying the race closer to the dreaming and making the elves a bit…weirder fits VERY well with my conception of them – and TPK Games know their dark and weird material!

 

Aventyr Bestiary by AAW Games:

Not many companies these days release monsters that can stand up to my VERY high standards – at this point, I’ve read so many engine-tweaks, I expect a great story and, more importantly INNOVATIVE mechanics for a monster to excel and be considered for my game. The crew at AAW Games is one of the few companies that manages to pull this off – and taking a look at the artists recruited, I can just say “WOW!” When my friend Joshua “KTFish7″ Gullion was still among us, he told me about a bestiary being one of his hopes – it is great to see this hope come to fruition. With funding level reached in less than a day and stretch-goals falling, some absolutely awesome stretch-goals are coming up.

 

Legendary Planet Adventure Path by Legendary Games:

If you haven’t noticed this kickstarter before, I have no idea how it could have slipped past you – this is, without a doubt, the current “big one.” What do we get here? Perhaps one of the most ambitious projects I’ve ever seen in a kickstarter – funding a whole, massive 7 (!!!)-part Sword & Planet-AP that also makes use of the mythic, kingdom making etc.-rules, all without making them the focus. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t think this worked, were it not Legendary Games we’re talking about. The model used is interesting – while the AP will be collected in one massive book, we’re currently in the process of funding adventure #4 – those not funded via this KS will be released, but we’ll lose out on some content. With international shipping being pretty inexpensive, this AP is ambitious and, more than anything, innovative in focus – I really, really want to see this succeed beyond all scopes and sincerely hope I can scrounge together enough bucks to back this monster. My close personal friend Paco from GMS magazine has also recorded a podcast on this topic, so if you’re interested, listen to it here!

 

All right, that’s it for now! Have a great week-end and see you next week with reviews for big Everyman Gaming-books, no less than 3 mythic path-pdfs and much, much more!

 

I remain yours truly,

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 032015
 

Ultimate Commander

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This massive class-pdf clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page SRD, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 30 pages of pure content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Before we get into the details of the general class, let me explain some of the basic premises of this class. If you’ve been following my reviews *VERY* carefully, you may be aware of the fact that I consider the troop-subtype awesome – much like swarms, it makes the pitchfork-wielding mob a challenge and its level of abstraction enables venue of storytelling not well-supported by the default system. At the same point, I am a pretty big fan of the mass-combat rules introduced in Ultimate Campaign, superbly supported by Legendary Games’ glorious plug-ins. Both have one thing in common – a disjoint of abstraction, one that is slightly exacerbated by mass combat.

 

Pathfinder’s combat is detailed to the point where one may argue that the game turns into a kind of simulator once combat begins – it is probably as close to a simulator with a low level of abstraction as you can get without compromising the fluidity of the playing experience. At the same time, mass-combat rules provide a relatively high degree of abstraction. The general attempts to bridge the gap between the mass combat and regular combat rules. As a base chassis, the general is a class with d8, 3/4 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, shields and light + medium armor as well as goo fort- and will-saves.

 

The basic means to achieve that would be the general’s squad. A squad can be considered a somewhat abstract troop of individuals which doubles as a kind of pet-creature that defends the general. As such, an obviously slightly gamist level of abstraction is required to run the class, but one that makes sense – but can the base mechanics stand up to the premise? Gained at 1st level, a squad acts as an aggregate, is not subject to flanking or massive damage, but to sneak attack and massive damage and when reduced to 0 HP, it disbands. A squad counts as one creature for the purpose of skill-checks, attacks, initiative, etc. Squads initially occupy 3 squares, shapeable as the squad sees fit, with actual size category determined by the component creatures. One may move through their squares and the squad may move through occupied squares, but incurs AoOs when it does. Squads cannot be dragged, pushed, repositioned, tripped, grappled or bull-rush’d, except when the effect applies to an area. Squads grappling opponents do incur the grappled condition. Squads are immune to single target spells and require AoE-spells to be properly affected, though, thankfully, with the massive array of spells, the GM remains the final arbiter to whether an obscure spell affects the squad. Squads obviously take +50% damage from spells and effects that inflict AoE damage. Nonlethal damage is properly covered as well.

 

Whenever a squad disperses or takes damage that is not magically healed within 1 minute, calculate 1/4 of the damage as casualties. Casualty damage cannot be healed by natural healing, since it not only stems from injury and death, but also from loss of morale and desertion. A squad suffering from more than 1/4 of its HP as in casualties receives 1 negative level, though said level cannot kill squads, only impose the penalty- Squads that suffer more than 3/4 maximum HP in casualties are disbanded until the casualty damage can be repaired. Yes, this is pretty much in line with how such mechanics work when used in mass combat. In order to regain troops, generals have to journey to a given settlement to recruit new members. Handy DCs by settlement-size are provided and a squad has a relatively simple attack, though one that can be supplemented by a second attack or a shield. Squads can execute combat maneuvers, threaten squares and can execute AoOs as normal.

 

Squads increase their HD (D8) every level and have 3/4 BAB-progression, good ref-saves and begin play with1 feat, gaining +1 at 3rd level and then +1 every odd level thereafter. A squad gets good ref-saves and increases its armor bonus every level by +1. Squads also receive a scaling str/con-bonus that scales from +0 to +7 and increase the numbers over the levels of up to 12-18 soldiers, occupying increasing amounts of squares, up to 6 squares. Squads also have their own skill-list and get 2+Int skills per level. Squads can make their teamwork feats only work in conjunction with one allied character.

 

Now, obviously, the general makes for a superb general when used in conjunction with the kingdom building rules, including quicker, scaling training and army-limits – awesome! Whenever a general benefits from a tactical bonus due to placement on the battlefield, he increases this bonus, rewarding players actually playing the general as the tactical commander he is intended to be. Now where things become interesting is via the synergy of general and squad: As a standard action, the general can enhance the squad’s BAB to equal his level and at higher levels, the commands become VERY interesting – 3rd level unlocks the swarm attack: When the general issues this command as a standard action, the squad may expend a standard action to deal general-level damage to all creatures and unattended objects in reach. At higher levels, a buffing command that can be executed as a swift action provides further bonuses.

 

3+Cha-mod times per day, generals may issue motivational speeches to heal non-casualty damages to the squad that scale thankfully. At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, a general may learn one squad tactic. Here, we have an example of the rare Legendary Games-glitch, with the page number not being correct, instead listing a “page ??” – thankfully, the adjacent internal linking renders this glitch cosmetic at best. Squad tactics cover a list of 3 pages, with improved mobility and aiding as well as the option to temporarily render terrain difficult. Further hampering spellcasting, firing volleys of bolts etc. can all be found, alongside more conventional tricks à la Blind Fight etc. Holy or unholy damage are also interesting. I noticed a minor issue with Mitigation tactics: This allows the squad to mitigate damage retained, with the amount depending on the general level – namely that since the ability does not use DR or resistance, I’m not sure whether the minimum damage of 1 still applies or not. Granted, this one point is not going to cut it in most cases, but I still would have loved to see this covered. Raising or lowering earth squares in record time may sound none too impressive, but oh boy can you make nasty ambushes with just a bit of time on your hands… All in all, these squad talents are great, though formatting can’t seem to decide whether to include a blank line between the talents or not – mind you, this gripe remains an aesthetic one.

 

At 2nd level, 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the general may select a genius stratagem, which can be executed as a move action and the stratagem either affects an ally or his squad within 30 ft. The stratagems lasts for Int-mod rounds and cover various supplemental buffs, with some being relegated to higher levels. A personal favorite of mine allows for nonlethal damage sans penalties. The general also receives the cavalier banner class feature at 3rd level, with cavalier level +2 as the effective level. 4th level nets contacts in all sorts of places, with command skill determining availability. 5th level also nets higher effective scores for kingdom-building-related bonuses to Loyalty and Stability. Now if the action-economy seemed pretty bled-dry, you’ll like to hear that, at 7th level, the general, fighting in tandem with his squad, may lend the enhancement bonus and weapon special abilities to his squad, more interestingly in conjunction with ranged weapons and a proper interaction with ammunition.

 

Better yet, at higher level, increased power in mass combat, with full synergy with Ultimate Battle, extends the general’s field of influence from kingdom building to mass combat. Beyond these abilities, soldiers from the squad sacrificing themselves to keep the general from harm and similar defensive abilities round out an excellent class, with the capstone making the general an instantly recognizable man of wide renown.

 

The class provides solid favored class options for the core races and also features several archetypes: The Crusader would be a religious commander who can incite a kingdom to forego a kingdom’s leader bonus to stability, instead applying it to a reroll of the three checks rolled. Other than that, the archetype nets favored weapons and a minor defensive aura. The guerrilla receives different squad stats and an emphasis on hit and run tactics, with vital strike-charge-synergy, for example. Kingpins would be the subtle commanders, with Stealth and Disguise allowing the kingpin to blend with the squad and the squad to be less conspicuous. Via their illicit gains, they can mitigate failed stability checks and foiling truth-finding and becoming pretty divination-proof also help. Damn cool one! The mindbender is a kind of eldritch-themed enchantment-specialist with a limited array of SPs that help recruiting and succinctly, ways of determining magical influence and a psychic debuff. I like the fluff here, but found myself wishing this had been realized as a telepathy-related archetype instead.

Nobles obviously have quite a bunch of gold to through around and may maintain endowments of a building autonomous of the kingdom and may have friends in higher places. The Rallier provides bravery and more enduring marches. Reavers share teamwork feats with their squad, but take longer to command it and can charge through their squad with a nasty synergy attack. Redeemers are specialists of rehabilitation and nonlethal victories – love them! Revolutionaries receive automatic casualty-replacements when in an area with sufficient dissent. They may also destabilize kingdoms and high-level revolutionaries may whip their squads into zealous frenzy, preventing dispersal.

 

Strategists do not get the support command, but may designate high-value targets and keep said order lasting longer. Tacticians depend mostly on Intelligence, not Charisma for motivational speeches etc. and may have two sets of squad tactics, switching between the two with a drill. And yes, the archetype gets a contingency plan. the Tactician can be VERY strong, as it essentially has a gestalty-squad. Tyrants use fear-based tactics and intimidation, while warbringers are the bloodthirsty barbarian warlords. On a nitpicky side, I don’t think “Blood Rage” is a smart way of naming an ability, with the bloodrager out there.

 

The pdf also provides an alternate class, the hordelord, who must be evil, gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with light armor, scythes and simple weapons and arcane spell failure in better armor. The class gets 1/2 BAB-progression as well as fort- and will-saves. Instead of a squad, the hordelord receives a unit of zombies that pretty much follows the rules for squads, with the exception that dispersal is handled differently and that replacements require only a ritual and some monetary investment. Hordelords receive channel energy as a cleric of their level and command undead as a bonus feat at 1st level. Hordelords get spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level, governed by Cha, but restrict their spell-selection to necromancy spells and those with the fear and death-descriptors. In a nice catch, the pdf does specify the priority sequence for spells that can be found on multiple lists with different spell levels. The hordelord also receives a kind of adaptation of squad tactics at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with some unique tactics thrown into the mix. (The question-mark glitch also can be found here, btw.) At 2nd level, the class also receives the path of depravity, a bloodline-like modification that further provides bonuses at 9th and 16th level – 3 such paths are provided. Increased and trampling zombies, killing off zombies to power your spells and becoming a scythe-wielding master of the undead – all covered. It should btw. be noted that the zombie horde does NOT suffer from the usual staggered-issue of the shambling undead.

 

The pdf also provides 2 pages of feats with extra class feature-uses, class feature upgrades, combat maneuvers, excluding allies from swarm attacks, etc. – a solid array of feats. The final page covers interaction of Leadership feat and general and lists the troop-subtype’s characteristics for your convenience.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, only some very minor glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides ample gorgeous full-color artworks, some of which may be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Will McCardell and Linda Zayas-Palmer make for an excellent team – after their superb and impressive demiurge-class, the general manages to achieve an unprecedented feat in blending personal and kingdom-level adventuring, spanning the gap between the two. When I first heard about this pdf, I expected a lot of undue overlap with Michael Sayre’s cool Battle Lord, perhaps the most interesting adventurer-group commander I’ve seen so far. Instead of going that route, the general does something wholly unique, not only providing perfect synergy with kingdom building and mass combat, it also is distinct n that it makes adventuring with a troop of allies a valid option – hey, perhaps your players actually provide names for the squad members! Whether Bridgeburners or Black Company, the general has significant narrative potential that surprisingly is supplemented by tactical options beyond the scope of other classes – not necessarily in power, but in the breadth – battlefield control via earth-lowering etc. make for damn awesome tricks, for example. The fluid flux from the personal to the abstract dimension make this an achievement in design that proved to eb exceedingly fun to play, more so than many pet-classes I have seen. The synergy with Ultimate Rulership and Battle further enhance this.

 

So all absolutely awesome? As far as the base-class is concerned, yes. Now I’m not saying that the archetypes and alternate class are bad, far from it. However, I would have enjoyed the zombie horde to be more distinct – it didn’t feel very zombie-ish to me – no staggered condition, no consumption of foes, no instant regain of casualties, no increased amount of members/area covered…. that and the VERY similar scaling of the squad’s stats (being almost carbon copies) render the horde and its master a reskin that falls woefully short of being truly distinct. When the hordelord should have had me cackle with glee, it disappointed me as a minor reskin with some basic modifications. More paths would also have helped here. So that would be missed chance one. Some of the archetypes provided also feel very basic, with only a few truly blowing me away. That being said, I am pretty nitpicky here and ultimately, these gripes are not necessarily fair – why? Because both archetypes and alternate class provide imho less of a distinct, unique identity – they are system/engine-tweaks for the class. Basically, they serve to highlight a significant array of possible modifications for the general-chassis and thus can be considered guidelines to modify and adapt the base engine of the class – which is superb.

 

“But wait”, you say, “I don’t want to play with kingdom-building!” – you’re lucky. While the general is intended for the like, just letting these fall under the rug does not impede the performance of the class – the general can be played without those rules and is still a powerful class. Since the kingdom-building/mass-combat abilities do not influence regular adventuring, you won’t lose any power, just some of the experiences that render the class so incredibly awesome.

 

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the final verdict here – on the one hand, we get a superb class that is mechanically truly distinct and innovative; on the other hand, the supplemental content did fall flat of the potential and uniqueness of the class, being essentially an array of engine-tweaks that provide options galore, yes, but on their own, they will not make you gush. So I waited for the playtest and asked about the fun-level this class provides – and here, the general excels. While I am not impressed by most of the supplemental content beyond their functionality as engine-tweaks, there are some gems herein and ultimately, no problems worth complaining about. More importantly, the general itself is a piece of beauty and genius – it is fun, both in regular and kingdom-building campaigns, utilizes several jamais-vu-level innovative mechanics and manages to proudly place its banner where no other class has tread before – and ultimately, I love it for that and recommend it wholeheartedly. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval….now can we have more kingdom-synergy-classes? Ultimate Kings and Queens, for example?

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 032015
 

Purple Duck Storeroom: Spell Components (Core)

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This installment of Purple Duck Games’ inexpensive Storeroom-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, providing 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Every roleplaying game, ultimately, is a game of abstractions, of rules and individual interpretation – that’s why no movie will ever amount to the awesomeness of the one stunt that character pulled off…and why discrepancies between a GM’s description and a player’s perception thereof prove to be such a source of frustration when they happen.

 

If your game is like mine, there is a certain level of simulation – and I believe that spellcasting would be considered much more balanced, if one tracked how much uses of this bat guano stuff the wizard has. The one issue here would be that, ultimately, there is the component pouch – and we have no idea what’s inside. While this abstraction helps render the game more fluid, it does prove to be a problem once you start asking whether obscure component for ritual xyz is part of one’s pouch, a problem, which to a similar extent can be applied to kits.

 

This pdf can be considered the ridiculously inexpensive solution to this issue – in handy tables, all foci and material components of spells from the CORE-book are tracked in easily navigated tables. Better yet, the pdf provides a sensible suggestion of how much such a pouch can hold and what (probably) is contained in such a pouch – and yes, the contents come with a nice 1-page full-color rendition by Rick Hershey.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to a 1-column printer-friendly standard and the pdf comes with full nested bookmarks for easy navigation. This can be easily printed out in digest-format, btw., making it a nice booklet to carry along.

This pdf, compiled and presented by Mark Gedak, essentially can be considered a godsend in my book. This is a humble, utterly awesome little pdf that may not be crucial for any group, but it adds a sense of realism to the game I adore. It takes a wibbly-wobbly, ill-defined, esoteric component of the rules and provides one-glance-done coverage. I love this pdf. For the low price, this is just awesome and I hope to see all other big books covered as well – this is extremely useful and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this very useful, cool pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 022015
 

Dear Patreons, dear readers!

 

The month of June not only saw yet another year added to my life’s span, I also tried hard to provide a lot of very detailed, long and work-intense reviews that took a lot of time to complete, so I hope you enjoyed those!

Last month, Lords of Night was chosen by you and it is still in the process of being playtested, so please bear with me regarding this one – crunch-books of this size are serious business, especially since I can’t really combine this one with testing other books.

As always, if you have any requests for prioritized reviews you’re eligible to, please contact me via patreon, homepage or directly per e-mail – the sooner, the better and the higher is the chance I can get it done in one month!

You may have noticed that I have almost caught up with most publishers and this tendency will continue in July, with several of the big, work-intense books done. Last month also saw you deciding you want more Everyman Gaming books reviewed – and guess what, they’re almost done; same goes btw. for Fat Goblin Games-material. Expect to see them very soon.

Now, to give you an update regarding current class playtests: Next up are the Guru, Daevic and Harbinger as well as the Animist. Legendary Games’ Commander is done and awaiting publication -and yes, this beast was a lot of work – the same can btw. be said about the playtests for no less than 3 mythic paths, which have been completed as well.

I am currently wondering which of AAW Games’ Adventure-Arcs I should tackle first:

-Fallen Leaves

-Dracoprimia

-Search for Lost Legacy

I am also wondering which big FGG-book to tackle first:

-Sword of Air

-Quests of Doom

Another decision for you: Which Kobold Press-book do you want me to cover first?

-Larger than Life

-Dark Deeds of Freeport

I’ve read both, but can’t decide, so please, tell me what you’d like to see!

The same holds true if you think a publisher is getting the short end of the stick, etc. – I try to provide variety, but it’s ultimately YOU who matter here!

Finally, here is the list of reviews I created thanks to YOU during the last month! Enjoy (And please note the massive array of big books!)!

So here’s my list of reviews for the month of June!

Raging Swan Press – Village Backdrops: Aldwater

Fire Mountain Games – Way of the Wicked VII: Tales of Talingarde

AAW Games – Mini-Dungeons: The Case of the Scrupulous Pawnbroker

Tricky Owlbear Publishing/Fat Goblin Games – Fantastic Fighting Styles

EN Publishing – Zeitgeist #8: Diaspora

AAW Games – AAW Blog Presents: Armory of Adventures

Purple Duck Games – Assassins of Porphyra

Kobold Press – Demon Cults: Servants of the White Ape

Dreamscarred Press – Psionics Unleashed Revised

Purple Duck Games – Warrior Prestige Archetypes: Nature Warden

Interjection Games – The Ironclad: A Tinker Archetype

Fire Opal Publishing/Pelgrane Press – 13th Age Core Rules

AAW Games – Mini-Dungeons: The Soul of a Prince

AAW Games – Mini-Dungeons: Torment at Torni Tower

Raging Swan Press – Dweller Amid Bones Collector’s Edition

Misfit Studios – Bite Me! Skindancers

Raging Swan Press – Village Backdrops: Red Talon

Rite Publishing – Gossamer Worlds: Dragonhearth (Diceless)

Interjection Games – Remedial Tinkering: Happy Little Automatons

LPJr Design – Adventure Path Iconics: Lords of Undeath

Flying Pincushion Games – Into the Breach: The Cavalier

Fire Opal Publishing/Pelgrane Press – 13 True Ways

Dreamscarred Press – Psionics Augmented: Mythic Psionics

D20pfsrd.com Publishing – Compendium Arcanum Update-Post fro Vol. 2 and 3

EN Publishing – Zeitgeist #9: The Last Starry Sky

Rite Publishing – Faces of the Tarnished Souk: An NPC Collection

Purple Duck Games – Purple Duck Storeroom: Magic Pants!

Raging Swan Press – GM’s Screen Inserts (Landscape and Portrait version)

Interjection Games – The Motebringer: An Edgewalker Archetype

Savage Mojo – Dungeonlands III: Palace of the Lich Queen

AAW Games – AAW Blog presents: Cultus Sanguineus

AAW Games – Varakt’s Halo I: The Great Pubo Hunt

AAW Games – Mini-Dungeons: The Halls of Hellfire

Kobold Press – Deep Magic

 

As always, I am exceedingly grateful for your generosity and patronage and remain yours truly!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 022015
 

Deep Magic

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This massive, huge tome clocks in at 378 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages backer-list, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 367 pages of content, so let’s…

…wait. I can’t really convey the illusion of spontaneity here. Why? Because I have written and deleted this review 3 times as I’m writing these lines. This is quite literally one of the hardest reviews I have ever written, mainly because conveying my stance on Deep Magic is pretty ambiguous and prone to misinterpretation.

 

But let’s start at the beginning. This book is beautiful. Thanks to one particularly helpful gentleman, I managed to pledge by proxy over him (didn’t have the bucks when the KS ran…) and when this book’s physical copy arrived in the mail, I was utterly blown away. Not only did I receive a massive, gorgeous stitch-bound hardcover, it was in gorgeous full color and sported some of the very best pieces of artwork I’ve EVER SEEN. The matte paper helps create an illusion of an “old” tome and the superb, copious artworks render this book so beautiful, it even mops the floor with quite a few Paizo-books. Yes, that gorgeous. The layout, with its parchment-look, its subdued, unobtrusive glyphs further enhances this. Deep Magic is one of the most mind-staggeringly gorgeous books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read and both artists and layout-artists have been up to their A+++-game. Kudos!

 

Then, I went on and started reading beyond the forewords and the introductory short story by Ed Greenwood and after them, yes, I was utterly blown away and totally in the mind-set for the things to come:

 

The first we see would be the respective magical traditions. Old time fans of Kobold Quarterly and Kobold Press will see quite an array of old favorites herein again – from blood magic to fool’s summonings, quite a bunch of conceptual goldies can be found herein. At their very best, these new traditions are ridiculously inspired – new ioun stones and ley lines would be two such examples. The latter, for examples, can be tapped by casters with concise rules to tap into their powers – while very powerful, these ley-lines can not only make for interesting tools that can turn the tide of battle and e.g. prevent a TPK or provide unique, cool ways to execute narratives. The transient nature of ley lines and the option to burn them out/change their course places control firmly within the hands of the DM, preventing abuse. That being said, as a DM, I have to decidedly advise against making the numerous ley line feats available for PCs – their balancing is odd/non-existent, with no-save, no-SR 1-round blinding effects and the like not necessarily constituting good resources to place in player hands.

 

The fool’s summoning tricks go a different way – beyond interesting, more risky, but also more powerful summoning tricks, a copious amount of spells receive flavorful modifications and reskins – which brings me to another point. These traditions sport unique effects, and the same holds true for chaos/wonder magic, with distinct, odd effects and abilities rendering the experience of playing the respective schools pretty interesting. Alas, not all of the traditions herein receive such interesting rules – in fact, quite a few of the traditions adhere to the following presentation: We receive a short fluff-text, spell-lists by caster/level and then, a sample spellbook, including preparation ritual. (And yes, rules for intelligent, living spellbooks can be found herein as well – they are pretty sinister and narrative gold.)Now don’t get me wrong, I *love* the inclusion of these books, but all in all, the respective “schools”/traditions, at least partially, feel too rudimentary – there is not enough to set the spells themselves apart, no guidance to develop additional spells for such a school and some classes receive e.g. one exclusive spell for such a tradition – not much reason to pick a tradition. By providing a tighter focus, the traditions could have been infinitely more compelling, more specific…but…on the other hand, we for example receive a complete, new full-blown mythic path with the living saint.

 

What are living saints? Well, for one, they are chosen of god(s) – what I mean by this is that, like many a mythological leader of religious prowess, these guys experience a highly interesting phase of tribulations, wherein they are severed from their gods and besieged by the whole pantheon – essentially, all gods can tempt the saint towards their ideology and sphere of influence, proposing different spells etc. for obeisance and quests. This can also be used for interesting foreshadowing and over all, the mythic path, intended for divine casters, is pretty much a cool choice with plenty of narrative potential ingrained into the very fabric of the thing, especially due to the numerous spells sporting names of the saints, adding a cool narrative dimension and unobtrusive fluff to these miraculous powers. This mythic path is the first that actually feels like it could have originated in fiction, like it not only provides a rules-escalation, but an actually defining, narrative tool. I adore this path and the resonance of our own world’s myths, with obvious references to Christian (sans the ideology, mind you – you can’t be offended by this guy) narrative structures that are very ingrained into how we perceive certain myths, this path is a thing of beauty.

 

Vril, the unique pseudo-atlantean power-source introduced in Sunken Empires (inspired by Bulwer-Lytton’s writing) also receives new specialists, both archetype, feat and spell-wise. Converting spells into vril-blasts, for example, is pretty interesting. That being said, careful looks into this system also shows us a couple of somewhat odd choices – the archetypes, for example, are separated and relegated to their own chapter – so instead of looking up e.g. vril magic, you have to know where what can be found. Yes, organization is neatly organized by crunch-type, but in a book this focused on awesome concepts, I think another solution would have been appropriate. Also odd – Ink Magic, in depiction pretty much a tradition, can be found in the chapter on rune-magic. Strange.

 

But this line of reasoning brings me to the first issue of this book, though it is admittedly one of preference. The traditions as such, as has always been the strong forte of Kobold Press, just BRIM with imagination. They provide iconic, well–crafted concepts that set the imagination ablaze. I know a couple of them from their original books and the fluff, usually, did in some way limit the respective traditions – whether it’s the lost magic of vril, the blood magic of some limited tribes/traditions or the lost magic used to slow the progress of the Wasted West’s Old Ones…there always was this implied scarcity, this alignment of crunch with philosophies, ethnicities and accomplishments. So the PCs have this powerful spell xyz, BECAUSE they have taken on caster zxy, because they have braved the ruins of Gru’tharkrr…

 

This book collects all of these traditions and breaks their spells into a massive, huge chapter, dissolving the lines between them and implying by its very organization a general availability not implied in singular presentations – essentially, we have a disjunction of fluff from crunch to a certain extent. Now this means that you have to search the spells in the lists if you want to make a specialist, but have an easier time when just browsing through the book, looking for spells generally available – hence, the implication is that these spells are available freely, akin to how spell presentation works in Paizo’s big books. Now don’t get me wrong, one could argue that THIS is exactly what this book tries to do, analogue to the big Paizo-books, where you essentially slap down the book and have a general extension of the arsenal. My contention, ultimately, is that this is balance-wise one of the decisions that shoot the book in its metaphorical foot.

 

In my first iteration of this review, I went through all of the crunch here in these traditions step-by-step – alas, this bloated the review to the point where it wasn’t helpful anymore. (And if I’m saying that, with my tendency towards verbose reviews, you’ll have an inkling of what a monstrosity this would have become – my guess was 20+ pages – and let’s be honest, no one would read that…)

 

So, Deep Magic does sport, a HUGE chapter of spells, both new and old – all collated and organized by handy spell-levels. This chapter is where my first and second review-attempts broke apart. The first one due to my so far pretty jubilant review receiving a harsh dose of reality, the second because I realized that step-by-step analysis makes no sense, bloating the review. If that was not ample clue – not all is well here. It is only understandable that a vast array of authors will have diverging voices and different mastery of the system and yes, this does show herein. Now before you get the pitchforks, let me state one thing explicitly and clearly – the *concepts* of these spells are WONDROUS. Gorgeous. Superb. They are iconic. They *feel* like magic, not like some energy-colored damage-dealing vehicles. They manage to capture the elusive spirit of what magic ought to be and bring the “magic” back into a game often lost and sorely missed. I’d take the concepts of this book over those in Ultimate Magic and Combat combined any day.

 

The concepts.

 

For there is no way around the following statement, no way to sugar-coat it without outright lying. There are a lot of cool, functional spells herein. However, there also is a vast array of spells that would have desperately required the hands of an editor who truly knows rules-language and/or a capable developer. Name the issue and you have a very good chance of finding a representative of the issue herein, quite possibly in a spell that you absolutely love concept-wise.

 

This chapter almost broke my heart.

 

Any closer analysis shows ample problems, often to the point of rendering a spell highly ambiguous, unbalanced or downright inoperable – there are examples of authors obviously mixing up flat-footed and touch attack AC. Mechanics more closely related to 3.X-design. Spells that do not allow for saves which should. SR that is ignored when comparable spells allow for it. Contradictions between spell-block and its text. Faulty AoEs/ranges/targets. False spell-block formatting. Wrong save. Damage-escalation. You name it. Damage + no-save stagger at a level where it’s ridiculous. Non-sense descriptor-placement. Balance is not even crying in the corner anymore, it is utterly GONE, evaporated into some nebulous dimension. Some author(s) seem to not get the distinction between material components, foci and divine foci. Unspecified bleed damage à la inflict ” receives bleed 3″ – bleed 3 WHAT? Hp? Attribute? What about a spell generating an AoE geyser-like effect that gets just about everything wrong you can possibly get wrong regarding AoEs? Racial spells that could have simply used focus as a limiting component instead of wonky wording-crutches that try (badly) to cut out other races? Sentences that peter off. Wording so convoluted I can’t tell you how exactly a spell works. You name the glitch, it’s here – and right next to it, you may see one of the coolest spells ever.

 

This massive chapter was one of the most heart-rending experiences of my reviewer-career. My first skip through it saw me exhilarated. Closer scrutiny brought disappointment, actual in-depth analysis…well, there’s no way around it…pain. Now beyond the glitches, the balance-concerns herein may partially stem from bad design-choices and lack of rules-language development…but at least partially, they also have their origin in the simple fact that the book took the “soft” restrictions that served as a balancing factor before and took them away by smashing all spells into one big chapter. Where before, spells may have been “broken”, but rare, the implication here is that they are freely available, exacerbating what might before have been a reward into power-escalation. Now yes, in face of the vast army of issues that plague this chapter, even a change in presentation in the proposed way would be a drop of water in a vast desert of issues and would do nothing to render the formal issues void…but yeah, that would be one exacerbating factor.

 

And one that extends, alas, to the next chapter. I am a huge fan of runic/glyph magic. Allowing non-casters to learn the powers of rues is one of the most-beloved tropes for me – whether clad in a pseudo-Scandinavian guise or via lovecraftian alignment with aboleths et al.; The very concepts of the runes are powerful, and intentionally so. But once again, stripping these of their fluff, of their direct place within the world, of the achievements required to learn them, renders them problematic. When you have to mimic the deeds of the gods to learn the rune Uruz and then, finally have it, it becomes okay if you can paint it on your shield for a 1/day +20 bonus to overrun/bull rush – chances are, your DM knew what was coming and planned accordingly. If the fluff context is taken away, a ridiculously powerful rune, accessible for 1 feat, remains – and suddenly, we see the system stumble under the weight of one of its foundations being eroded.

 

I’m not going to analyze the word of power-subchapter, mainly because I consider the base-system introduced in Ultimate Magic just not well-designed. On the plus-side, the awesome incantations pioneered by Zombie Sky Press back in the day receive a significant array of new ones and these tend to be pretty awesome narrative devices.

 

Alas, the sloppy rules-language of the spells also partially (but thankfully, only partially!) extends to the following chapter, detailing bloodlines and mysteries. What about tentacle-attacks that do not specify as what they are treated? Check. Flawed target/reach-nomenclature…check. Sp, Su and Ex, in some cases, seem to have been determined at random, rendering some abilities utterly opaque. You get the idea. Now yes, the problems are much less pronounced than among the spells, but they are still here. As an additional note – the options among these class options do not feel as though they were balanced among themselves, with power-levels ranging from weak to VERY strong. Still, overall, these options feel relatively operable and easily fixed and the concepts provided are often utterly unique and cool. On a footnote, wizards, oddly, have their arcane discoveries/focused schools etc. in the tradition-section in the beginning, ripping the class options associated with the traditions in half. The problems outlined here also extend, alas and much to my chagrin, to the chapter on archetypes. That being said, the archetype’s main flaw remains the focus on the spells/traditions – you can’t build a house on sand and these, as compelling as they often are, sometimes do just that – which is a pity, for here, much like with aforementioned class options, the imaginative potential is rather impressive..

 

The following chapters, thankfully, at least for me, redeemed the book, at least partially – a concise and utterly awesome chapter on the creation of homunculi/leastlings and simple rules for undead crafting as well as nice clockwork templates for familiars et al. make provide significant fun, engagement and narrative potential. Speaking of which – portrayed in glorious artworks, a significant array of iconic, cool NPCs – those that are here, are great and flavorful, but I can’t help but feel that one per tradition would have been nice to see.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are good. On a rules-level, they are BAD and ironically, deeply flawed. Layout, as mentioned, adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the artworks range among the most stunning I’ve ever seen in an RPG-book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the dead-tree copy ranks among the most beautiful books in my shelves.

 

Read this list: Wolfgang Baur, Creighton Broadhurst, Jason Bulmahn, Tim Connors, Adam Daigle, Mike Franke, Ed Greenwood, Frank Gori, Jim Groves, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Brandon Hodge, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Neil Spicer, Mike Welham, Margaret Weis. With this amount of creative potential assembled, does it surprise you that I consider this book the most inspiring spellbook I’ve ever read? Alas, even these titans can stumble. And they did.

 

This book could have been the ultimate spellcasting-milestone, a legend, a book that defines the very game we play, a whole new dimension of spellcasting. And it is – on a concept-level.

 

Instead, at least on a crunch-level, it is pretty much, as much as I’m loathe to say it, a wreck -not one that has sunk, but one that leaks. The lack of a rules-savvy editor/developer is readily apparent – there are plenty of glitches herein that could have been caught by even a cursory inspection.

 

And no, that’s not just me being overly picky. I put this book before one of my less rules-savvy players, opened it on a random page in the spell-section and had him read spells. Inadvertently, he stumbled over an ambiguity, an issue.

 

Were I to rate this one the crunch alone, I’d smash it to smithereens – the very skeleton of the book is flawed and that radiates outward to almost all chapters, poisoning them as well. Allowing this book flat and without scrutiny at a table is an invitation for rules-discussions and balance-issues – at least if the players are halfway capable at making efficient characters.

 

Why am I not bashing this further? Because, while deeply flawed, Deep Magic is also deeply inspired – the concepts herein are staggering, setting the mind ablaze with possibilities, conjuring forth ideas for adventures, campaigns even. Quite a bunch of the flaws can be ironed out by a capable DM…and flawed though it may be, Deep Magic has A LOT of passion, heart’s blood and soul oozing from its pages. The concepts of this tome, in the end, made it worthwhile, at least for me.

 

I’m not going to lie. My players will never get their hands on this book. But I will take the concepts, take the spells, fix them and reap the benefits of the exceedingly awesome concepts provided herein. On the one hand, we thus have a terribly flawed book that fails quite spectacularly and depressingly at becoming what it ALMOST achieved – being the best spellbook for any iteration of a d20-based system ever. On the other, the often flawed crunch does provide more great spell-ideas and concepts (as opposed to their execution…) than the APG, ARG, Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat combined.

 

Whether this book is for you depends very much on what you expect – if you want solid crunch, a book to just slap on the table and allow…well, then stay the 11 Midgardian hells away from this book. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to work with it, if you’re looking for inspiration and are competent regarding the design/balancing of material, then this is a scavenger’s mithril-mine and a great resource to have – you literally can’t open a single page in this book without stumbling over at least one awesome, iconic concept. The hardcover is also great to show off to non-gamer friends and make them marvel at the glorious artworks, layout and presentation.

 

How to rate this, then? I hate and love this book. I want to slap my seal of approval on it, in spite of its flaws. But I can’t. Deep Magic has too many issues and I can’t rate potential, as much as I’d love to. I can only rate what is here and its effects – which oscillate between “utterly awesome and inspiring” and “wtf is this supposed to do?”

 

Without the superb concepts, the lore-steeped ideas, the downright inspired take on magic and its flavor, I would have gone further down on my scale. But, as a reviewer, I also have to take these into account, as well as the people out there who are like me and still can take a lot from this book. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

 

You can get this massive book here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 022015
 

Mini-Dungeon: The Halls of Hellfire

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This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com’s shop and thus, absent from the pdf.

 

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

 

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

 

Still here?

All right!

 

The Halls of Hellfire were once a sacred neutral ground, a place for peace talks – now, the halls are a beacon for creatures of pure evil, tainted by the darkness that saw the downfall of this once-sacred space. Now, the lamia of the desert have been drawn to this place and both regular specimen of the feared species as well as a matriarch await the PCs to toy with their minds and break both their bodies and souls.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf comes with a nice piece of full-color artwork.

 

Jonathan Ely’s Halls of Hellfire provide a storied locale with per se cool combat encounters and some solid traps. Alas, at the same time, I did feel like this locale fell short of its awesome background story – some tantalizing hints, a bit more fluff, perhaps a series of short haunts – something to make the PCs experience the tragedy of the place first-hand would have gone a long way to make this more than a cool ruin inhabited by some lethal lamia. That being said, this mini-dungeon is by no means bad and well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

 

You can get this nice mini-dungeon here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 012015
 

Varakt’s Halo I: The Great Pubo Hunt

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This module clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

This pdf does sport a psionic psyllabus-page – essentially a handy cheat-sheet that sums up the basic peculiarities of the psionics-system on a handy page – nice for novices to psionics – who also happen to be the target demographic of this module. 11 pregens are provided for the perusal of the players, with all getting their own artworks – while these may not be beautiful, the pregens do sport roughly the same level of optimization, so that’s nice to see.

Why eleven? Well, because there are two new psionic races native to the island of Varakt: The first would be the athmer, who get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, wild talent as a bonus feat, darkvision 60 ft., Run as a bonus feat and +2 initiative, are amphibious and can 1/day unleash a breath weapon of either cold or electricity damage that deals 1d6 damage of the chosen type in a 50 ft.-line. They also get energy resistance 5 to the breath weapon’s chosen element, are amphibious and can choose +1 power point as an FCO. Personally, I consider this race to be slightly too strong – either eliminating the Run-feat and initiative or the amphibious racial trait. There is a nice tribal distinction between electricity and cold-based athmer and the fluff of the race is nice.

 

The second race would be the Hrek, who get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Con, are naturally psionic and gain the FCO-option. They also receive darkvision and can reduce the penalty to Stealth while moving by 5 and can use it while running at -20 penalty. 1/day, hrek can cause iron or steel touched to grow into another object – alas, the ability fails to specify what action this takes. the ability also does not specify the effects on magical equipment, whether this can be used offensively in combat, etc. Hrek are treated as +1 level higher when casting spells with the fire descriptor, for the purposes of the fire domain or the fire elemental bloodline, the flame mystery’s revelations and alchemist fire damage-causing bombs. Odd that this does not extend to psionic powers utilizing fire as the chosen energy. Hrek also get a breath weapon and resistances tied to it akin to the Athmer, only theirs is a cone and either fire or acid-based. Very odd here – why can’t one choose acid and related class abilities for +1 CL? And why have psionics not been included in that + 1 level? The two races come with age., height and weight-tables. I’m honestly not a big fan of the Hrek either.

 

But this is a module and as such, that’s what I’ll talk about next – so, from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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Still here? All right! The PCs begin this module stranded on the odd tropical island (fully mapped, btw.) after an assault of goblin pirates wrecked their ship and awake on the lush beach – only to be attacked by sahuagin and promptly, saved by a group of hrek -while pretty friendly, they pantomime to the players the issues and creatures looming beyond the treaded paths. Overcoming the communication obstacle, hampered by the strange crystals on this island, does make for some awesome roleplaying potential that cannot be solved by just one roll of the dice or magic. It should also be noted that awakening to psionic powers also falls into this chapter, which should be interesting for the pregens, whose strange unfamiliarity is explained via this change. Nice way of tying mechanics with the story! Decoding grat, this language, is a task beyond the immediate scope of this module, though nearby pylons and a skeleton of a translator at least help with communication to a point where it becomes kind of functional.

 

It seems like the annual Suar rains will soon be upon the island – which requires a sacrifice of a so-called pubo – which would be a fatter, dumber and psionically active local variant of the dodo. Alas, beyond this, the issue of the coastal sahuagin complicating hunting remains. Entering the pubo hunting grounds results in hilarious pain – the birds not only have cognitive crystal kidney stones, they also drop explosive excrement. Finding and capturing one of the dumb birds isn’t that hard – but why are there no other predators in the area? Well, once a huge, mutated mamma pubo comes running, the PCs will know why. And yes, this beast is very lethal! Following the trail of the unnatural mutation, the PCs can find some interesting hints that someone is engineering troubles – as a conch-shell resounds and denotes another attack. On the way back, the PCs can test their mettle further in combat with both blue aegis and soulknives.

 

Upon their return, the PCs are made to understand that they’ll sacrifice the pubo the next day on the volcano – but at night the blue tribe attacks and steals the pubo they brought – in the case of mama pubo, should the PCs have opted for her, leaving a huge trail they can easily follow and making the hrek look rather incompetent. At the blue’s camp, the showdown with the remaining blues constitutes the finale of this module.

 

As a nice hand-out, sheets for each player-character allow for a nice help regarding pantomime, representing different words they can decode, providing a great, optional way of simulating the communication in grat-pidgin.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, colorful 2-column full-color standard. Artworks range from the nice cover to thematically-fitting stock-art and the less than gorgeous pregen-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography ranges from great to okay and provides a total of 3 maps, all with player-friendly iterations.

 

Mike Myler’s great pubo hunt is something I don’t get to see often – a genuinely funny module. While it may not be apparent when just reading it, actually playing the pantomime/communication-breakdown is just FUN and this is further emphasized by the hilarious pubo-hunting. This is pretty much a very FUN module that can work perfectly when used with kids – it’s not grim or dark or nasty, it’s just FUN and even young audiences can appreciate the tone when handled by a halfway decent GM. The supplemental help also is a nice bonus and as far as the adventure is concerned. The great pubo hunt is a module that is just fun – a change of pace and a solid introduction to psionics, though mama pubo can provide a very challenging opponent. So, all perfect? No. Quite honestly, I wished the hunt itself had more detail and the same holds true for the hrek-settlement and the settling-in-period. This module would definitely have benefited from stretching this component longer and not just boiling it down to a short period of relative inconvenience. The finale could also have used more details, perhaps some more terrain features, traps, a map or something like that – anything to make it slightly more distinct, especially after the cool battle against the deadly mutation…

In short, I found myself often wishing that there were less pregens and more adventure herein, probably also since I’m not a big fan of either new race – they conceptually left me unimpressed.

This divide becomes more apparent when taking the exceedingly cool module that is here into account – the module-part here breathes Mike’s trademark playfulness and imaginative talent. I contemplated quite a while, but ultimately, I’m going to settle on a final verdict of 4 stars. Consider me excited about the sequels!

 

You can get this module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 012015
 

AAW Blog presents: Cultus Sanguineus

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This pdf clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

So, what do we get here? Well, essentially, we get a small collection of thematically-linked encounters – think of them as pretty much a kind of sandbox to fill out: You get the key-scenes and fill in the rest. Got that? All right! As such, the following obviously contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

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Still here? All right! Countess Veresovich and Count Krev Ragata have been up to no good: Finding a set of dread scrolls during her travels, the countess plans to conjure forth a powerful entity – alas, and thankfully for the Klavekian metropolis of Mohkba, the players are involved. In the mean and gritty streets of a less savory neighborhood, the PCs witness an obviously incognito noble, said Count Ragata is stabbed and robbed right in front of the PCs – as they navigate the dark and rather gritty (and lavishly-mapped) alleyways of Mohkba, they hopefully manage to track down the assailants and avoid falling to the haunt -in the aftermath, they are invited to nothing less than Veresovich’s masquerade ball – perhaps even keeping a mask as suggested by the count.

 

The masquerade ball itself can be considered a nice array of read-aloud texts and socializing. In any way, the masquerade will probably feature the items sanguineus, now assembled. A set of 3 magic items that collectively can transform the wielder into a vampire also feature herein…though oddly, the countess seems to vanish from the ball and when suddenly, walls of force supplemented by lethal blood vortex haunts lock down the house, things get ugly fast. The assembled nobles find out, the hard way, that the countess is not to be trifled with, as the floor of the ball room collapses and dumps them below the house…

 

Seeking of the house – there is a nice miniature map, but I don’t get why we don’t get a properly-sized map – as provided, the map is the one herein you can’t properly use. And yes, the caverns below the house also sport a proper, big map – once again, just as useful as the one for the alleyways. So what is going on down in those nasty caverns – well, the countess’ is currently engaging in the massive slaughter required for her ritual’s success. In order to stop her, the PCs not only have to brave her cultists, they may also have to deal with allies foolish enough to wear the sangineus items and perhaps the vampiric Count Ragata, all while moving past massive blood pools filled with leech swarms – oh, and if you want to – this final encounter does sport mass combat between trapped nobles and cultists – oh, and yes, the daemon the Countess seeks to summon is part of the deal, as are even more, nasty haunts.

 

Thematically fitting traps further complement this supplement, as do valid pieces of advice regarding mass combat and when to use which rules and the same goes for social encounters.

 

I should also not fail to mention the presence of multiple magic items, all with significant descriptions, beautiful full-color renditions and lore-sections.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color 2-column standard and the pdf comes with quite a few gorgeous full-color artworks. The cartography is very good and evocative, though I really wished the mansion-map had also been featured in one-page-size to actually be printed out.

 

Mike Myler, Jonathan Ely, Justin Andrew Mason, Rory Toma and Brian Wiborg Mønster deliver a damn cool vampire-themed set-up of encounters and set-pieces. The encounters themselves are great – every one of them, ultimately, can be considered fun and uncommon with at least one or more neat options/ideas per encounter. That being said, at the same time, this pdf does feel a bit like it has an identity-crisis.

 

I can get behind the format of roughly, thematically-linked encounters to flesh out – I actually like that. At the same point, this pdf left me feeling somewhat confused regarding the transitions and how the whole master-plan connects – essentially, what we have here is a GLORIOUS adventure, a superb investigation…that was not fleshed out. If you are familiar with The Skinsaw Murders: Think about the Sanitarium Encounter going to the Farmstead going to the Clocktower. You just feel constantly like the sinews that connect an awesome storyline are missing. Now this is partially due to the format, granted, but in this case, it frustrated me to no end.

 

Why? Because this is a supreme set-up of glorious encounters that get the gorier aspects of horror downright perfect in flavor – the encounters are FUN. The atmosphere is great. The adversaries are cool and the same goes for traps, haunts and items – but in the end, what we get here is a sketch – a sketch of something awesome, but a sketch nonetheless. The encounters do NOT need a fully fleshed out connecting thread – but they imho would benefit immensely from an actual structure being presented to the GM.

A capable GM can make this a full-blown 3-part adventure saga, perhaps even a full-blown AP, and it is inspired in what it delivers – but I wished its components had been connected better. Essentially, we get three set-pieces that are almost required to be run in conjunction, and still, we are left wondering about the transitions and left with a feeling of lack- when a short break-down of the plot, some structure to guide from encounter to encounter and expansions would have made this a legendary 5 star + seal of approval module.

 

As provided, this is a nice compilation, yes, but one with opaque villain motivations and structure that is held back from true greatness by being too story-driven and unique to work as disparate drop-and-forget-encounters, by being too adventure-like for being a disconnected encounter-collection, and by not providing enough connecting narrative thread for a collection of linked encounters.

Conversely, if judged as an adventure, even as a skeletal sandbox, it feels too unstructured to make the most of its great premises. I figured that running this as written would change my impression – alas, it didn’t, it only made me wish more that this had been a full-blown gothic horror saga.

For scavenging purposes, this is an excellent buy, but as a sourcebook or as a DIY-module-toolbox, it falls behind the potential of its easy 5-star-premise. So, if you’re looking for some bloody material to craft with, take a look, you won’t be disappointed – if you want a full-blown module or drop-and-forget encounters, you may wish to look elsewhere. Still, this remains a solid pdf, one I hope will one day be made into its own, complex, investigation-heavy horror AP. For now, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars – and since I am a fanboy of all the themes evoked, as a person, I will round out. As a reviewer, though, I think I need to round down.

 

You can get these encounters here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.