Feb 232018
 

Cosmic Odyssey – Service Bots and Synthetic Companions (SFRPG)

The second book in Fat Goblin Games‘ series of Starfinder-supplements in the Cosmic Odyssey-series clocks in at a massive 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover and 1 page sample robot-sheet (Nice!), leaving us with a massive 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, we begin this massive tome with a nice introduction (which also specifies that the book uses gender-neutral pronouns for the service bots and synthetic companions within) and moves on from there to a list of influences on the design, which could be taken as a brief Appendix N-like section of sorts. In a rather surprising twist, we go pretty scifi-y, in that the pdf actually discusses nuances between artificial and autonomous intelligence, qualifying e.g. androids as the latter. A SB, or service-bot, is assumed to have an artificial personality, as roleplayed by the player, and they will not provide preset responses to threats etc. unless the like was specified by the owner; as such, one could argue that we do not have autonomous intelligence in this context. In analogues from Pathfinder, we’d treat them more akin to the automatons of tinkers than like e.g. eidolons or similar companions.

 

Now, SBs are constructs with the technological subtype and they consist of a power source, computer, frame, controller interface, propulsion and add-ons. SBs have a tier, which is calculated based on its computer, +1/2 tier per add-on. Service bots are assumed to be capable of surviving briefly in extreme environments: Without the respective add-ons, they have 1 minute of unimpeded functionality in zero-g, extreme heat, etc. – after that, it will take damage and after 5 minutes, it will cease operations. This does help with the old “zombie-defusing”-problem – send an expendable critter into danger. PCs can’t do that with service-bots. Service bots are assumed to be waterproof and vacuum-proof, but prolonged exposure/full immersion can fry them – the GM retains control over when this happens.

 

Ability scores and saves are optional for SBs – they are assumed to automatically fail a saving throw if these are not specified, and the same holds true for ability scores and related checks. They are assumed to have 10 in the ability scores, and 0 in saves, except for one, which is equal to the tier, most commonly Fortitude. SBs are assumed to have 0 ranks in skills, with the exception of one skill (optionally), where they have ranks equal to their tier. Provided a service bot has a skill or appropriate add-on, it can Aid Another. The total price of a SB is dead simple to calculate. You just add the costs of he components together – and example illustrates this rather neatly. Most SBs are Small or Medium, though Tiny and Large SBs exist as well, though uncommon sizes adds +1 to tier per size and doubles power consumption of the frame. SBs with a bulk of 25 or more requires propulsion. The frame determines appendages, add-on slots, etc. Their durability may be upgraded at increased costs and tier. Appendages also determine the number of operators that can use a service-bot. Similarly, more advanced controller interfaces may be purchased, but cost credits and require an add-on slot as well as 1 OU to power. A massive 1 page table of frames provides a lot of different basics to choose from.

 

Now, I mentioned propulsion – once more, we have quite a few cool options here – these are btw. tied to the number of appendages the Sb has; for example wheels require none, but if you want a SB with arm propellers (!!), you’ll need at least 6. SBs have 5 times tier hit points and 2 + tier hardness unless otherwise upgraded, and they may be broken relatively easily. Now, PS and OU (power Source and Output Units) also provide a variety of different options and, in a really cool twist, you can split OUs and e.g. only have certain functions powered at a given time. You still have to meet the minimum requirements to power the SB, obviously, but yeah. Really cool and considerate! Oh, and if you think about jamming a starship power source into a SB – bad idea. But yeah, the book even covers that.

 

SBs are usually programmed to never harm another being, so combat utility, in case the stats didn’t make that abundantly clear, is limited. If they take more than ¼ of their hit points in damage, they may incur serious damage. Want to ride a service bot? Well, turns out, you can! A SB can integrate into the mechanic’s class feature as either drone or exocortex. In the case of drones, simply add a free add-on slot as a place t slot each drone mod, and the SB takes on base drone statistics and chassis. For the exocortex, you remotely and telepathically control the SB by loading the exocortex into it. Done. See, I really wanted to see this, and, much like the detailed care that went into previous options, this covered it.

 

And this concludes the section on DIY-service bot creation. It stands out as an excellent example of what I expect to see in Starfinder: Concise rules, presented in an easy to grasp manner, which tie in seamlessly with those in the Core Rulebook. Beyond that, they show awareness and consideration for an impressive assortment of individual choices and needs. The section is empowering in its creativity and I dare say that pretty much everyone will come out of this with at least one cool idea, probably a whole plethora! We all wanted a service-bot beer-barrel that you can ride, with arm propellers. Right? Right! This section really, really excited me – but it is nowhere near to where the pdf stops.

 

Instead, we get 5 different service bot manufacturers – and these corporation write-ups don’t just stop with brief write-ups; instead, each manufacturer has a bonus and a drawback: Friendly Face Sbs get +1/2 Diplomacy per ties, but have a 5% chance their holoskin DC is 0 when a creature attempts to disbelieve it, to give you an example. In addition to these rules-relevant and fluffy components, we actually get corporate slogans (!) and even notes on legality, copyrights and trademarks (!!). Heck,w e even get corporate logos (!!!) and notes on DIY SBs! Yes, at this point, I am officially impressed. Beyond these aspects, we get a smattering of rumors, which may work as adventure hooks pertaining service bots etc.

 

Now, I know, I know. Why do these bots exist? Because sentient life is programmed to conserve energy, to make life easier, nicer. As such, it is only fitting that a HUGE chunk of this book is devoted to making life easier for GM and players alike: We get a COLOSSAL amount of pre-made sample SBs. As in: 100 of them. They are organized first by tier, then alphabetically within the tiers. They sport prices and denote manufacturer etc. as well as brief write-ups. Cleanybots! Petsybots! Lifters! Snake-shaped SB-storage units! An inefficient, bouncing SB-model called pogo, a favorite of kids! Emergency-loss-of-atmosphere bots! Movement detectors! A MMO-bot! Search-and-rescue units! An automated magician’s assistant! Do you play in a pan-galactic death metal band, one whose sounds can’t be handled by regular SBs? SounderBot has you covered with its extra foam dampening! Do you hate cooking? A CookerBot can provide gourmet food without the hassle of having to cook. Like cooking and need an aide, but you have a temperament that lest Gordon Ramsey look mellow? We have a bot for that!

…Can we please develop SBs in real life RIGHT NOW? I so want ALL of them.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. I noticed no formal hiccups and in the SB-stats I dissected, no issues either. Kudos! Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a lot of rather cute full-color artworks I haven’t seen before, some of which quote the aesthetics of e.g. Wall-E. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but only per tier, not for individual service-bots, which remains pretty much the only organizational complaint I can field against this book.

 

Wow. I mean…wow. Kiel Howell’s service bots and synthetic companions are pure amazing. They make sense on so many levels, it’s not even funny. It makes absolute sense for a sufficiently advanced civilization to have a ton of these little helpers, so this aspect does add quite a bit to the credibility of a setting into which they’re introduced. From a game-perspective, they are challenging: They have to provide a tangible benefit and warrant resource-expenditure and a player’s investment; sure, it’s fun to roleplay the service-bot buddy, but if it’s useless, why bother? The pdf solves this tight-rope act admirably. Service bots do matter, but they will never be able to steal the thunder of PCs and their allies, while at the same time being potentially a) funny and b) life-savers…or c) integral parts of plots. The attention to detail regarding a lot of the finer interactions and things you may want to do with SBs and the seamless integration into Starfinder’s rules-chassis left me positively blown away and surprised. This is the best book by Mr. Howell I’ve read so far and should be considered to be must-reading for any Starfinder group that wanted a cool robo-sidekick: Whether C3PO, R2D2, Marvin…or, well, a heli-beer-dispenser-roadie, this book has you covered. I adore this tome and the vast amount of sample SBs make this super-convenient for the GM as well. All in all, an excellent, highly recommended file, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval. Get this asap!

 

You can get this inspiring, amazing book here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 232018
 

Village Backdrop: Dawnmarsh

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ Village Backdrops-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Well, first things first: Dawnmarsh is playing against the classic trope of the isolationalist, xenophobic lizardfolk tribe – instead, the lizardfolk of Dawnmarsh are actually welcoming trade, dealing with rare remedies etc. – this opening is not happening unopposed, with particularly the non-lizardfolk populace being welcomed into the village being too much for the more conservative elements. As such, there is some internal tension going on in the lavishly-mapped AND illustrated village. Yes, we actually get an impressive b/w-artwork to represent the settlement.

 

The spiritual leader, Kassarin the wise, the venerable lizardfolk cleric, is one of two NPCs of note that comes with a fluff-centric write-up, noting no stats, but dressing habits, distinguishing features, etc. Now, as always, we get more than that: We do have a total of 6 different whispers and rumors to help PCs that do their legwork. Similarly, village lore may be unearthed and local color is added via nomenclature, dressing habits, etc.. The lizardfolk worship the sun deity (makes sense, lizards and sun and all) and thus, this also is a part of the local culture and customs. If the basic set-up does not suffice your needs to make this as spontaneously useful as it should, well, rest assured that no less than 12 events/village dressing encounters can be found within, adding some life to the settlement.

 

Of course, we do get a properly depicted market-place section, and yes, we also receive a PFRPG settlement statblock…Dawnmarsh is, just fyi, a pretty safe place!

 

Really cool: The write-up for the surrounding locality provides an optional tie-in with Raging Swan Press’ classic Tribes: Lizardfolk of the Dragon Fang-supplement – combine both for one aggressive and one conservative tribe, whose agendas may well be on collision course! The pdf also follows the evolved Village Backdrop formula that was pioneered in Needlebriar and made possible by the success of raging Swan Press’ patreon: While we still get write-ups for the locations of note for the village, they sport the improved presentation and detail: We get brief pieces of read-aloud prose describing the key-locales in basically read-aloud text; services available and items sold are noted by locale and we actually also get mini-quests/adventure hooks for the respective key locales. Better yet, there are actually specialized events in two areas: 6 events for the market circle, 4 for the dawn shrine.

 

The pdf also sports the mechanical effects of two different, unique elixirs sold in the settlement: One that makes you quicker and one that nets a slow regeneration of lost limbs, but also some lizardfolk-ish quality. Yeah, fans of spider-man will probably have a few ideas there.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed only minor, cosmetic hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and is elegant and printer-friendly. Speaking of which: We get one version optimized for the printer and one that is optimized for screen-use. The b/w-artworks featured within are great and the b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is really nice. A key-less high-res version of the map is, to my knowledge, provided to Raging Swan Press’ patreons. The two versions of the pdf come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

David N. Ross is one of the few designers I know that excel at designing mechanically complex classes as well as writing great, GM-facing supplements. Dawnmarsh’s basic premise did not exactly blow me away. That being said, the execution is a whole other matter – Dawnmarsh greatly benefits from the improved, expanded village backdrop formula and is extremely easy to use. The reasons for the PCs to travel there, the politics and surrounding environments all conspire to make the settlement a really nice, fun place to explore. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this village here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 232018
 

Village Backdrop: Dawnmarsh (system neutral)

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ Village Backdrops-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Well, first things first: Dawnmarsh is playing against the classic trope of the isolationalist, xenophobic lizardfolk tribe – instead, the lizardfolk of Dawnmarsh are actually welcoming trade, dealing with rare remedies etc. – this opening is not happening unopposed, with particularly the non-lizardfolk populace being welcomed into the village being too much for the more conservative elements. As such, there is some internal tension going on in the lavishly-mapped AND illustrated village. Yes, we actually get an impressive b/w-artwork to represent the settlement.

 

The spiritual leader, Kassarin the wise, the venerable lizardfolk cleric, is one of two NPCs of note that comes with a fluff-centric write-up, noting no stats, but dressing habits, distinguishing features, etc. It should be noted that the pdf has been properly adjusted to refer to old-school aesthetics, with class-references etc. adjusted. Now, as always, we get more than that: We do have a total of 6 different whispers and rumors to help PCs that do their legwork. Similarly, village lore may be unearthed and local color is added via nomenclature, dressing habits, etc.. The lizardfolk worship the sun deity (makes sense, lizards and sun and all) and thus, this also is a part of the local culture and customs. If the basic set-up does not suffice your needs to make this as spontaneously useful as it should, well, rest assured that no less than 12 events/village dressing encounters can be found within, adding some life to the settlement.

 

Of course, we do get a properly depicted general market-place section. Really cool: The write-up for the surrounding locality provides an optional tie-in with Raging Swan Press’ classic Tribes: Lizardfolk of the Dragon Fang-supplement – combine both for one aggressive and one conservative tribe, whose agendas may well be on collision course! Downside here: This optional tie-in pdf has not yet been converted to a system neutral version. While no fault of the pdf, the fact that the reference is still here may be a bit jarring for old-school gaming groups.

 

The pdf also follows the evolved Village Backdrop formula that was pioneered in Needlebriar and made possible by the success of raging Swan Press’ patreon: While we still get write-ups for the locations of note for the village, they sport the improved presentation and detail: We get brief pieces of read-aloud prose describing the key-locales in basically read-aloud text; services available and items sold are noted by locale and we actually also get mini-quests/adventure hooks for the respective key locales. Better yet, there are actually specialized events in two areas: 6 events for the market circle, 4 for the dawn shrine.

 

The pdf also sports the mechanical effects of two different, unique elixirs sold in the settlement: One that makes you quicker and one that nets a slow regeneration of lost limbs, but also some lizardfolk-ish quality. Yeah, fans of spider-man will probably have a few ideas there. The elixirs have been properly adjusted to reflect old school-design-aesthetics.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed only minor, cosmetic hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and is elegant and printer-friendly. Speaking of which: We get one version optimized for the printer and one that is optimized for screen-use. The b/w-artworks featured within are great and the b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is really nice. A key-less high-res version of the map is, to my knowledge, provided to Raging Swan Press’ patreons. The two versions of the pdf come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

David N. Ross is one of the few designers I know that excel at designing mechanically complex classes as well as writing great, referee-facing supplements. Dawnmarsh’s basic premise did not exactly blow me away. That being said, the execution is a whole other matter – Dawnmarsh greatly benefits from the improved, expanded village backdrop formula and is extremely easy to use. The reasons for the PCs to travel there, the politics and surrounding environments all conspire to make the settlement a really nice, fun place to explore. The system neutral version loses the cool tie in, but it would not be fair to penalize the pdf for that. My final verdict will hence also clock in at 5 stars for this one.

 

You can get this nice village here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 232018
 

Village Backdrop: Dawnmarsh (5e)

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ Village Backdrops-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Well, first things first: Dawnmarsh is playing against the classic trope of the isolationalist, xenophobic lizardfolk tribe – instead, the lizardfolk of Dawnmarsh are actually welcoming trade, dealing with rare remedies etc. – this opening is not happening unopposed, with particularly the non-lizardfolk populace being welcomed into the village being too much for the more conservative elements. As such, there is some internal tension going on in the lavishly-mapped AND illustrated village. Yes, we actually get an impressive b/w-artwork to represent the settlement.

 

The spiritual leader, Kassarin the wise, the venerable lizardfolk cleric, is one of two NPCs of note that comes with a fluff-centric write-up, noting no stats, but dressing habits, distinguishing features, etc. It should be noted that the pdf has been properly adjusted to refer to 5e’s default statblocks. Now, as always, we get more than that: We do have a total of 6 different whispers and rumors to help PCs that do their legwork. Similarly, village lore may be unearthed and local color is added via nomenclature, dressing habits, etc.. The lizardfolk worship the sun deity (makes sense, lizards and sun and all) and thus, this also is a part of the local culture and customs. If the basic set-up does not suffice your needs to make this as spontaneously useful as it should, well, rest assured that no less than 12 events/village dressing encounters can be found within, adding some life to the settlement.

 

Of course, we do get a properly depicted general market-place section. Really cool: The write-up for the surrounding locality provides an optional tie-in with Raging Swan Press’ classic Tribes: Lizardfolk of the Dragon Fang-supplement – combine both for one aggressive and one conservative tribe, whose agendas may well be on collision course! Downside here: This optional tie-in pdf has not yet been converted to 5e. While no fault of the pdf, the fact that the reference is still here may be a bit jarring for 5e-groups.

 

The pdf also follows the evolved Village Backdrop formula that was pioneered in Needlebriar and made possible by the success of raging Swan Press’ patreon: While we still get write-ups for the locations of note for the village, they sport the improved presentation and detail: We get brief pieces of read-aloud prose describing the key-locales in basically read-aloud text; services available and items sold are noted by locale and we actually also get mini-quests/adventure hooks for the respective key locales. Better yet, there are actually specialized events in two areas: 6 events for the market circle, 4 for the dawn shrine.

 

The pdf also sports the mechanical effects of two different, unique elixirs sold in the settlement: One that makes you quicker and one that nets a slow regeneration of lost limbs, but also some lizardfolk-ish quality. Yeah, fans of spider-man will probably have a few ideas there. The elixirs have been properly adjusted to reflect 5e-design-aesthetics.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed only minor, cosmetic hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and is elegant and printer-friendly. Speaking of which: We get one version optimized for the printer and one that is optimized for screen-use. The b/w-artworks featured within are great and the b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is really nice. A key-less high-res version of the map is, to my knowledge, provided to Raging Swan Press’ patreons. The two versions of the pdf come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

David N. Ross is one of the few designers I know that excel at designing mechanically complex classes as well as writing great, GM-facing supplements. Dawnmarsh’s basic premise did not exactly blow me away. That being said, the execution is a whole other matter – Dawnmarsh greatly benefits from the improved, expanded village backdrop formula and is extremely easy to use. The reasons for the PCs to travel there, the politics and surrounding environments all conspire to make the settlement a really nice, fun place to explore. The 5e-version loses the cool tie in, but it would not be fair to penalize the pdf for that. My final verdict will hence also clock in at 5 stars for this one.

 

You can get this supplement here on OBS!

 

You can directly support raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 232018
 

Star Log.EM: Kyubi Paragon (SFRPG)

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Hej. Wait. Yep, you’d be right – the Kitsune is obviously not a race featured in the Starfinder Core Rules. Its Starfinder iteration was released in the Starfarer’s Companion by Rogue Genius Games. Since both RGG’s Starfinder supplements and those of Everyman Gaming share the implicit setting of the Xa-Osoro system, this makes sense. Now, the Kyubi paragon for Pathfinder was a massive, highly customizable racial prestige class – a degree of flexibility that this one does not attempt to duplicate, or indeed, need to duplicate, considering Starfinder’s archetype system.

 

That being said, this pdf absolutely requires Starfarer’s Companion to properly work.

 

In order to qualify as a kyubi paragon, you need to have the kitsune subtype and you must have taken Magical Tail as the 1st-level feat. Speaking of feats: The pdf includes two: Alter Shape nets you Life Science ranks in Small or Medium humanoid races: You get a specific alternate shape for these races, allowing you to Disguise yourself. The races chosen may be modified when gaining levels. Minor, and purely aesthetic nitpick: The feat notes “You must have at least 1 rank in Life Science to

select this trick.“ In an obvious cut-copy-paste-glitch. Realistic Likeness builds on the change shape racial trait and allows you to assume forms other than the specific forms and alternate kitsune forms. This has a synergy effect with the previous feat, just fyi.

 

Now, the kyubi paragon archetype provides alternate class features at 2nd and 9th level. At 2nd level, we get chakra, which lets you select two spells from the Two Tail Spell-array in Starfarer’s Companion. 1/day as a move action, you may add one of these spells to list of spells that you can cast with the Magical Tail feat. This lasts until you do it again and you may not use it again before finishing 8 hours of rest. Whenever you gain a level, you may replace one of the spells with one you haven’t selected, but have the required number of tails for. Starting at 6th level, you may use the ability additional times per adventuring day for the expenditure of 1 Resolve Point. Costs increase by +1 Resolve Point for each additional swap; the costs reset upon finishing an 8 hour rest. At 9th level, you choose an additional 3 spells, and when you swap spells, you may swap two at once.

 

Whenever a feat or class feature would net a character the option to select a spell via the Magical tail feat, he may instead elect to learn a kyubi trick. Tricks are grouped in 2 categories: Two Tail tricks require 1 feat; Five Tail Tricks require 4 feats. Yes, alas, this means that the most potent of kitsune tricks are lost to the Nova Age. Tricks also have a minimum character level. Important: If applicable, the save DC of kyubi tricks, if any, is not governed by a general key ability modifier; their save DC is governed by Charisma, regardless of your base class. It should also be noted that these tricks make use of Magical Tail’s AE (arcane energy)-resource, and as such, sport some interesting resource management gambits. The tricks include additional uses of Adaptive Fighting, shapechanging-upgrade via feats and the like. We also have the option to use shapechanging and AE-expenditure to attempt to escape e.g. grapples here. You may also wield additional tools and weapons (though that does not influence your number of attacks) with tails, and you may use shapechanging as treat deadly wounds and first aid with shapechanging, using Disguise as Medicine, with subsequent uses increasing costs. We can also find a quick shapechange that may cause targets unaware of your nature to become flat-footed (ouch!) and increased longevity by number of tails – yes, table provided. Gaining claws or fangs and limited climb/swim speed also fall into the Two tail trick category.

 

Among the Five Tail Tricks, we can find a pounce-like feat: When using Shot on the Run, charging or using Spring Attack, you may make an Acrobatics check (not a big fan of DC being partially based on CR of the foe, but oh well – the cost does prevent abuse here). On a success, you get to make two attacks with the triggering attack form, instead of one. Really cool: the second trick allows you to assume pipefox or kumiho shapes! Yes, this includes a half fire, half electricity breath weapon. Nice!

 

The pdf closes with a flavorful, brief description of kyubi in the Xa-Osoro system.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s nice two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes with a nice artwork in full color. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ kyubi paragon is a concept that is near and dear to my heart. The execution of the kyubi in Starfinder is interesting, flavorful, and makes good use of the material from the Starfarer’s Companion, building on it in a tight and interesting manner. Now, granted, I wished that this was a longer file – I’m somewhat spoiled by the sheer versatility of PFRPG’s kyubi, but Starfinder’s version has to, system-immanently, go a wholly different route to account for the archetype flexibility. Locking options behind feats and using AE as additional resources definitely makes sense and the theme of flexibility and trickster-style shapechanging is retained…so, when all’s said and done, this most definitely is a well-made little supplement. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

Missed the Starfarer’s Companion? That tome can be found here!

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 222018
 

Star Log.EM: Infosphere Mystic Connection (SFRPG)

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After the usual, flavorful Query-entry as a brief introduction, we begin sans much ado with the new connection: Associated skills would be Computer and Engineering, and spells include dream from Starfarer’s Companion – the series assumes the shared Xa-Osoro system, after all. However, in a rather nice twist, we also get a new spell that is granted by the sphere (otherwise, tech 5): Digital profile, which lets you name a creature by name and attempt a Computer check with a DC of 30 + 1.5 times the creature’s CR. Pseudonyms and aliases, if any, can influence the DC as well. On a success, you create a blog that contains all online posts and uplinks made by the creature…but this does NOT help you sift through the information – that can take a LONG time. In short: While a help for investigations, it does not render them obsolete.

 

The connection lets you add +1 language per rank of Culture and allows you to substitute Culture checks when lying or changing your appearance. I am generally not a fan of skill substitution, but I’ll let that one pass for its limitations and the fact that it does make sense. It also has to be compared to the potent abilities of other connections, so some better cosmopolitan (haha) sleuthing can be considered to be okay here. At 3rd level, we get a mystic router – a free datajack that doesn’t count against the cybernetic augmentation limit, with datajack level equal to mystic level. It may also be used to interface with online networks, but still requires Computers checks. Basically, this makes you somewhat akin to Shadowrun’s Otakus.

 

6th level yields lightspeed searching, which lets you use your mystic router while connected to an online information network to research topics related to Culture, Life Science, Mysticism, Physical Science, or any Profession skill and research time for these is halved. 9th level provides wireless delivery, which is the later, but deservedly so, really powerful active trick you’ve been waiting for: You can cast spells with a range of touch over wireless networks at range. Upgrade to close range costs 1 Resolve Point and a spell thus cast only affects one creature. You still have to hit target’s EAC with non-harmless spells. Alternatively, you can upgrade this range to medium range for 2 Resolve Points. This obviously requires wireless coverage. I have a bit of a conundrum here. Does this require that the target is included in the area of wireless coverage? Personal jamming via e.g. a signal jammer that includes the target, but not the mystic in range could use a bit of clarification here. (And yes, this is a pretty specialized case.) If you’re btw. thinking about abusing this, remember, though, that the spells still need line of effect, as per the global rules, so the ability, while cool and potent, remains in line.

 

12th level yields a clairvoyance/audience-duplicate, but one that is based on a given online network; the ability can be recharged with a brief rest and a Resolve Point. 15th level yields an upgrade for the aforementioned digital profile spell, providing significantly more detailed information, including terminal location, for, bingo, 1 Resolve Point. The final ability would be diviner’s database, which makes your spells basically copy information into a mystic form of cloud server, allowing you to download and process rather impressive chunks of data. And yes, you can willingly delete data from it.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes with a nice piece of artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

 

The infosphere connection is really interesting, in that it expands the role of the mystic to the net-wizard, the Otaku, the coding guru…or the mega-creepy cyber-stalker. Its focus on research and sleuthing/secret agent-y skills is fresh for the class and makes sense to me. I’d enjoy playing one of these fellows, with cultural knacks, profiles etc. As a kind of shadow broker, the connection could make for a potent tool for villains as well and I’d enjoy seeing two mystics with this sphere attempting to duke it out while avoiding capture. It’s a remarkable subtle sphere, and one that can fit in rather well even in games that are closer to scifi than full-blown space opera/science-fantasy. In short, I did rather enjoy this supplement. My final verdict will be 5 stars, missing my seal by a tiny margin. Still, highly recommended if you’re looking for a more subtle mystic!

 

You can get this cool connection here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 222018
 

Star Log.EM: Collateral Characters (SFRPG)

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

 

We begin this pdf, as always, with a brief, flavorful recap, as these logs are presented as queries to a database; this time around, the tie-in to the shared Xa-Osoro system that is assumed to be the backdrop for Rogue Genius Games and Everyman Gaming’s Starfinder-supplements, is particularly profound: One of the system’s binary stars has imploded in a black hole in a catastrophe known as Regicide, which destroyed the Radiant Imperium’s central seat of government in Azan, creating the region now known as Blood Space. As a consequence of this collapse, piracy has run rampant, including a practice of slaying all adults, taking kids as de facto slaves – collateral for the damages incurred by boarding and vanquishing their caretakers. Thus, this pdf deals with such former slaves…which btw. are considered to be property even by the Imperium’s laws. Ouch.

 

A character with this background can be represented by one new theme and one archetype, the first of which would be Collateral; +1 Con. The theme nets, at 1st level, the option to choose a Profession skill. Recall knowledge DC is reduced by 5 to recall hierarchies, practices, personal and illicit dealings regarding the profession chosen. Additionally, you gain Athletics or Piloting as a class skill or +1 to the chosen skill if you already have it as a class skill. 6th level yields +1 morale bonus to Piloting and damage rolls when at 0 stamina or when a vessel you’re piloting has 0 hull points left. 12th level yields +1 hit point and Stamina Point per level. I assume this also applying to new levels gained, as per Starfinder’s Toughness feat, though unlike the feat, it does not have the “whenever you gain a new level”-sequence, which means that it may be read as a one-time boost. Clarification would be nice here. The 18th level ability nets you a pool of Collateral Resolve Points equal to Constitution bonus, minimum 1. These may not be used in any other way than to stabilize and if you have no regular Resolve left, you lose one Collateral Resolve Point per round instead. You don’t die as long as you have either Resolve or Collateral Resolve Points left. Basically, this makes you tougher to kill. Nice.

 

The archetype presented herein would be the diehard collateral, whose replacement abilities come at 2nd, 6th and 9th level – this one represents characters taken as collaterals while kids or in their adolescence. The 2nd level ability lets you spend Resolve to stay in the fight after stabilizing, also healing 1d8 + Constitution modifier HP as a reaction. The amount of hit points improves to 3d8 at 4th level, 5d8 at 7th, 12d8 at 10th, 16d8 at 14th and 20d8 at 17th level…OUCH! As a limiter, you must spend 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina during a 10-minute rest to use this again, but I still consider this to be overkill: Compare to e.g. the Solarian’s glow of life, which requires a move action and 1 Resolve to recover twice Solarian class levels, thrice when attuned…and which has a 6th level minimum. Sure the diehard’s ability requires in effect two Resolve and can’t be spammed, but I’m still not comfortable with its massive self-healing capacities. Compared with healing channel, it obviously lacks AoE capabilities, but then again, healing channel is a core ability and action-wise more intense. The ability is limited to staying in combat, but personally, I think that the costs of this fellow should be higher…or that the ability could use some nerfing.

 

Bloodied Frenzy at 6th level nets +2 untyped bonus versus fear effects. Whenever you have 0 Stamina, you gain ¼ level as a morale bonus to weapon damage rolls. If you also have less than half of your maximum hit points, you increase that to ½ your level. I am not a big fan of such thresholds à la 4th ed’s bloodied condition. If you have the collateral theme as well, the bonuses stack. Problem: The theme ability referenced has been renamed – the theme has no “cornered rat” ability; that should probably read “Back to the Wall.” The 9th level ability lets you grant yourself temporary Hit Points as a move action whenever you have 0 Hit Points, granting you the massive amount bestowed by the self-healing. The ability has the same cool-down as the base self-healing, requiring that you spend a Resolve Point to regain Stamina in the next 10-minute rest.

 

The pdf also provides some really cool, flavorful write-ups of worlds and factions in the Xa-Osoro system, allowing you to contextualize which faction/corporation or world has taken your character as collateral. Really flavorful section!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, it is also tight, if not perfect. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column full-color standard for the series. The artwork featured is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ collateral characters are a neat idea, executed in a solid manner. The theme featured makes sense to me and the archetype will find its friends. However, there are a few minor aspects that could be construed as problematic. The collateral archetype lets you build a fearsome, fearsome tank and honestly, I am not very comfortable with the extent of its potent abilities. I would not allow them as written in my game. However, this decision is based on a wholly aesthetic point of view at this point. As per the writing of this review, Starfinder is a young system that does not exactly brim with self-healing options and the abilities can’t be spammed, which is a big plus. That being said, the comparison to the solarian ability does make me uneasy regarding amounts healed, in spite of these limitations. This is not necessarily overpowered, depending on your campaign – if you go full-blown high-concept space operasque science-fantasy, this will fit the bill. If you’re aiming for a somewhat grittier game, this may be problematic and a mystic with the archetype makes for a combo that can really keep his allies fighting for a long, long time. That being said, it would not be fair to rate this down based on aesthetics alone – If that sort of “We’ll rise from the ashes”-style of combat is what you’re looking for, then this delivers in spades. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars. If you’re looking for grittier gameplay, round down; otherwise round up. My official review will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this nice pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 222018
 

Cosmic Odyssey – Pirates of the Starstream (SFRPG)

The first of the Cosmic Odyssey sourcebooks for Starfinder clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, we begin with a brief contextualization of the Jolly Rogers and the historical pirates and goes on to extrapolate some components that may differ in space – from tight-knit ports to specific practices – walking the plank would be rather lethal in space, with the airlock being the analogue. This, obviously, generates some deviations in the style that is ascribed to space pirates from the clichés we tend to associate with our terrestrial ones; it is important to remain cognizant of this fact, for it represents a thread that is woven throughout the book. This grounding in historical facts is something I personally enjoy very much – while I don’t expect it for space opera gameplay à la Starfinder, it is nice to see some foundation here. In an example, we actually get a reproduction of Captain Bartholomew Roberts (aka Black Bart)!

 

We have two different themes included here; the Brute nets +1 Str; the theme knowledge allows for the reduction of Medicine DCs to treat deadly wounds as well as for first aid. This also nets Intimidate as a class skill, or +1 to the skill if you already have it as a class skill. 6th level unlocks halved penalty for non-proficient weaponry (-2 instead of -4); 12th level provides hardhead, which is a bit weird: If you’re “reduced to 0, and make you unconscious”, you get a Fort save with the DC equal to damage taken. On a success, you remain conscious, with 1 HP remaining; this applies even if you have no Resolve Points left or don’t want to use them. On a nitpicky level, there’s a “HP” missing after the 0; on a rules-level, this is a bit weird, considering that staying in the fight via Resolve requires stabilizing. Also, how does this interact with nonlethal damage? Technically, that is not “0” per se. This ability would probably have been more elegant, if it modified the Resolve uses instead. As provided, it is rather rough around the edges. Anyways, 18th level lets you regain, up to twice per day, 1 point of Resolve for defeating an enemy whose CR is no more than 2 below your level. Not a huge fan here, considering the metagamey aspect of CR. On a rules-aesthetic level, personally, I’d have used SFRPG’s reaction-system here instead of free access. The theme is not broken, but also feels a bit raw.

 

The second theme here would be the rogue, who gets + 1 Cha and reduces the Diplomacy check to improve attitudes. Class skill-wise, it nets Athletics, with the usual +1 if you have it caveat. The 6th level ability nets you a +1 luck bonus to all untrained skill checks. 12th level can be a double-edged sword – Culture DC 10 to know your name, 20 to recognize you from appearance alone; on the plus-side, this also means that you have fans of sorts, which makes it easier to find helpful and friendly characters to aid you in your exploits. The 18th level ability is pretty much the same as for the brute, but you may also regain Resolve when achieving hard skill checks (20 + ½ character level). The hard cap prevents abuse, but yeah…would have preferred a wholly different ability there.

 

We get 3 new archetypes next: The boarder gains his alternate features at 2nd, 4th and 6th level, making it in that regard structurally analogue to the Starfinder Forerunner from the core book. The first ability nets you a +1 insight bonus to EAC and KAC when within 10 ft. of terrain that could grant you cover. 4th level nets a +2 insight bonus to weapon damage with blast weapons, but only versus targets within 10 ft. of you. This bonus increases by +1 for every 4 character levels attained. Furthermore, when aiming to not damage hulls, you can treat the hardness of the objects in your blast as +20 higher; basically, you won’t inadvertently destroy hulls. The final ability lets you always act in surprise rounds, on your initiative. If you “gain surprise” then you get +2 to atk and damage rolls. Okay…so does that mean that you only get this is all foes are surprised? Or do you get it against foes that are surprised, even if not all foes are? The interaction with the surprise mechanics are a bit rough here.

 

Gunners also gain alternate class features at 2nd, 4th and 6th level…or is that 2nd, 6th and 9th? The archetype contradicts itself there. The first attack with a ranged weapon in any combat (urgh, per combat ability…how have I not missed you) gains a +4 “equipment bonus” to atk and damage. Guess what bonus type does not exist in SFRPG? Bingo. By spending 1 Resolve Point, you can extend this bonus to subsequent rounds. And this makes it weird. So, a brief lull in combat nets you a free round of the bonus when hostilities resume. 6th level nets chain shot: When hitting a creature, it gains a save versus 10 +1/2 your level (class or character? I assume class here, analogue to the general definition) + your key ability modifier; on a failure, their speed is reduced to 0 for the round. Vessels must succeed Piloting checks instead to prevent their speed being reduced to 0; the pdf mentions that, at the GM’s discretion, these may continue moving, but sans directional control. I appreciate this caveat, but I would have loved to see that codified in precise rules instead. 9th level nets grapeshot; i.e. you can use non-blast weapons as blast weapons, but halve their range. Cop-out: Does not specify the interactions with ammunition, which e.g. Starfinder’s Fussilade does; it also can presents some RAW really wonky examples. RAW, this can be used with e.g. tactical crossbows or sniper weapons.

 

The third archetype would be the senior officer, who gains commanding presence, usable as a standard action 1 + ½ character level times per day, granting all allies within 30 feet +1 (untyped, should probably be morale, analogue to the archetype’s other abilities?) to Will-saves for the next round, which increases by +1 for every 6 levels beyond 6th. 9th level provides a similar boost for attacks versus a target in line of sight; slightly odd here: The ability is phrased in a way that makes it not 100% clear whether you have to attack the target as well (or need to have attacked it), though I assume that this is not the case. If you spend 1 Resolve point, you increase the bonus granted by +1, a further +1 every 5 levels after 9th. The wording here should probably use “increase” instead of “a further”, since morale bonuses usually don’t stack. While the functionality is there, the verbiage is a bit rough. In a weird decision, this has no daily cap. The 12th level ability lets you use a standard action to increase the speed of allies – it does not specify a range, how many allies can be affected, or a daily cap. Nasty typo: “By spending 1 Resolve Point they gain this speed increase for a number of levels equal to 1 + your key ability modifier.” Emphasis mine. Now, if that isn’t the best Resolve point ever spent! Kidding aside, this is problematic.

 

Next up, we get 6 new drone chassis types for the mechanic: Assassination, demolition, hacker, maintenance, infiltration and sentry drones are provided. As a whole, this section is solid, though I am pretty sure that the demolition drone has a glitch – I can’t deduce where the uncommonly high ACs come from (14 in both, Dex 10, mods don’t account for it); on the plus-side: Rules for laying mines! We also get a new mystic connection, the destroyer, which should fit, theme-wise, the demands of players looking for one that feels less…wholesome. They can channel scaling “electric” damage (should be electricity) via attacks versus an opponent’s EAC, with a range of 30 ft.. 3rd level allows you to undermine the hardness of objects by touching them (with object-size as a limiter, thankfully). The connection also yields a scaling bonus for allies in telepathic bond via Resolve. This ability also has no duration; defaulting to channel skill also doesn’t help, since the bonus applies to atk and damage. 9th level yields a touch attack that deals scaling untyped damage, and heals you for as much, with excess hit points gained as temporary HP that last a full hour. Yes, it costs one Resolve to use, but would you mind lending me that kitten? I need to refresh my shield of temporary HP before entering the fray. 12th level provides a somewhat confused ability: “Whenever you or an ally linked by your telepathic bond class feature scores a critical hit against a foe, you can spend 1 Resolve Point as a reaction to confuse that enemy. The foe must succeed at a Fortitude save or become exhausted for 1 round.“ Sooo…which is it? Confusion? Exhaustion? The ability also refers to the “sow doubt” ability in the following text. Guess what the connection doesn’t have? Bingo. 12th level nets tremor-based blindsense – which should be blindsense (vibration) in SFRPG’s formatting, not blindsense (tremors). The 18th level ability lets you call forth a tremors and a volcanic eruption via 1 Resolve. Here, it should be noted that the ability gets full action right – the pdf has several legacy “full-round action”-references.

 

The book also contains a new 4th level technomancer spell, nightcloak, which is per se damn cool – basically invisibility for ships. Somewhat odd: Ships of a larger size (Huge +) require multiple castings of the spell…so, when do the benefits run out? How exactly does that work?

 

Next up would be the new equipment section. Here, we get breaching charges and pistols, chemcutters, the classic cutlass (including several variants, including, but not limited to, molecular rift, buzzblade, and ripper). Two lack the damage-type shorthand in the table. Other than minor glitches, I enjoyed this section – and the same can be said for the starship equipment. Huge plus, as far as I’m concerned: Hyperspace beacons are provided with rules and beacon hijackers make all sorts of sense to me. Ship-damaging thruster boosters…nice. We also get a boarding shuttle and a Tiny gunship and there are rules for ramming other starships.Kudos!

 

The next section is GM-facing and deals with a couple of sample organizations, each of which comes with supplemental characters. This book predates the release of Alien Archive, so NPCs are built in accordance with PC-presentation and rules. No, I’m not going to penalize the pdf for that. Additionally, we get explanations of methods as well as a couple of adventure hooks for them The Crimson Corsairs get a CR 5 character, the CR 10 leader and stats for her vessel. The Crew of the Misty Maiden is next, and finally, there would be the Swiftsure Pirate Hunters – and much like in real life, the distinction of pirate/freebooter/legal authority may be a fleeting one.

 

The final section of the pdf presents 8-Piece Port, a pirate neutral zone composed of asteroids, held together by gigantic girders; each of the asteroids can be considered to be its own sub-settlement of sorts, featuring fluff-centric notes on NPCs of note, settlement stats as well as notes on industry and quite a few adventure hooks. We do get a nice full-color map, but no key-less player-friendly version of it.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of this book show that it is one of the earliest releases for Starfinder – it does sport quite a few relics and instances where the conventions have not been perfectly implemented. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a few nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

Kim Frandsen’s book on space pirates has me rather torn. On the one hand, I like the leitmotif and aesthetics of the book – the way in which historical tactics are extrapolated and brought to the space age; I like how ramming is covered and the items also are rather nice. The GM-section is interesting and I can see the 8-Pieces Port become a regular haunt for quite a few PCs. That being said, this book also suffers from being an early release in that rules-language isn’t as precise as it should be. A few glitches in the details can be excused, but the number that can be found within does drag this down a notch. Whether you’d like this pdf imho wholly depends on whether you’re a GM or a player – the player-facing options are not that great, while the GM material is more interesting. In short, the book, as a whole, is a quintessential mixed bag. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

 

You can get this sourcebook here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 212018
 

B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment (OSR)

The second B/X Essentials-book clocks in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, laid out for 6’’ by 9’’ (A5). So, what is this about?

 

First things first: This was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book. My review is primarily based on the premium print version of this book, though I have taken the pdf into account as well.

 

Okay, so the Core Rules-supplement in this series was made to divorce the core rules from all associated flourishes, allowing for maximum flexibility and options to modify them; basically, to provide a version of the B/X-rules that can be used to run anything, from scifi, to horror to modern gaming. The Core Rules-pdf thus represents an OSR-DIY-hacker’s concisely-presented basics.

 

But what if you actually wanted the accoutrements taken away from the core chassis, the classes etc.? Well, this is where this pdf comes in, once again focusing on a clear and concise presentation of B/X-rules, in the organization and presentation we have come to expect from the previous book: For example, class information is contained on a single page or spread to minimize page-flipping; related rules that end up not actually being next to each other instead use bolded fonts and precise page-numbers to help you navigating the book, making use at the table fast, painless and comfortable.

 

Now, and this is very much relevant for fans of the original rules, this is not content with simply being a repackaging. While the goal of the book is a faithful rendition of B/X-rules and content, it does acknowledge the fact that not even the most beloved of RPG-systems are perfect; there, system-immanently, are bound to be imperfections. Much like in the Core Rules-supplement, Mr. Norman addresses such instances; in this case, for example the rules for water vessels and strongholds have been interpreted in a way that does not sport the ambiguities and contradictions of the original, focusing on a playable and concise rendition. It is a testament to the author’s professionalism and humility that he actually includes a subjectivity clause here, stating clearly that he does not claim sole authority on interpretations. It is a small thing, but in an age where “opinionated” authors try to jam down their particular design-style or ideology down the throats of the gaming populace, it is something I absolutely adore. (And yes, if “opinionated” authors read this: I have elected to not play games, modules, etc. as a consequence of your incessant need to tell me that I’m doing it wrong or that your way of doing it is the only acceptable one for your precious game. Take a cue from Mr. Norman’s humble and sympathetic attitude.)

 

Sorry for that tangent, let’s take a look at the book, shall we? Character creation rules fit on a single page-spread, including the attack matrix as well as optional starting hit points rerolling. Since ability scores are relevant for the character creation process, we have that two-page spread reprinted here; for a detailed breakdown of attributes, I’d like to point readers that are new to B/X-rules to my analysis of the Core Rules-supplement. It should be mentioned, though, that the detailed internal references in this book have been completely revamped – it references to the Core Rules, obviously.

 

Okay, after this, we get an alphabetic presentation of the character classes, each of which fits comfortably on a two-page spread, providing all information required at one glance. Each class has its individual XP-progression and knows 5 saving throws: Death/Poison, Wand, Paralysis/petrify, Breath Weapon, and Rod/Staff/Spell. These scale with levels and usually can’t fall below 3; exception would be the Dwarf, who can have a Death/poison save of 2. That one, fighter and the cleric have btw. the best saves. Progression of *most* classes caps at level 14, with a few stopping earlier. Each table notes AC0 (modified attack roll to hit AC 0) and spells, if any. Only the magic-user class gets access to 6th level spells; the other two spellcasting classes, cleric and elf, cap at 5th level spellcasting, though the cleric gets more spells per day.

 

Wait what? Yes, in case you’re new to the whole old-school circuit: All those non-human races are represented by their own classes. Dwarves cap at level 12, elves at level 10, Halflings at level 8. No, no gnomes this early in the game. Sorry. It should be noted that the book contains optional rules for higher level gameplay.

The classes state allowed weapons and armors in the beginning and since each class has a different XP-value required to reach a new level, we will have discrepancies –halflings and fighters, for example, reach 8th level at 120.000 XP, while elves need a whopping 250.000 XP for that level. If you’re not familiar with the game: This is an intentional balancing decision. Similarly, classes stop granting additional Hit Dice at 9th level; thereafter, you only get fixed hit point bonuses and Constitution no longer applies its standard adjustment. Clerics, elves and halflings get d6 HD, while dwarves and fighters get d8 HD. And magic-users? Well, note how I mentioned that it used to be hard to get them to higher levels? Beyond XP required, they only get d4 HD. Yes, rabid dogs can kill you. Be wary… Something you may not be familiar with: Thieves also get only d4, but they get their own array of (mostly) percentile thieves’ skills. And yes, low level thieves are similarly hard to get to survive, but you’ll still definitely want them in your party.

 

The game assumes three alignments: Lawful, Neutral, Chaotic. Languages include Common (never liked it myself) as well as alignment-based ones and a table provides an idea regarding languages for PCs. We get optional level titles for the classes as well as, wee, the rules for equipment. Adventuring gear, weapons, armor – all with cost and weight (in coins) – and yes, weapon combat stats are provided. Blunt weapons may be used by clerics, charge weapons double damage when used on horseback after moving at least 60 ft. Reloading is an optional rule, and means that a weapon may only be fired every 2nd round. Two-handed weapons can’t be used in conjunction with shields and attack last in a combat round. And yes, once more, these all fit comfortably on a single 2-page spread.

 

From here, we move on to land transportation, which nets costs, miles per day, movement rates and maximum encumbrance as well as stats for carts and wagons. And yes stats for various horses, camels, etc. are included in the deal.

 

Now, let’s take a look at water transportation, shall we? This section is split into one page of seaworthy and one of unseaworthy vessels. Both tables sport costs, maximum cargo carried (in gold coins), usages and values for length, beam and draft -and yes, this includes values extrapolated from context where the original rules failed to mention them. Rules for high winds are provided here as well, distinguishing between near gales and proper gales. We follow ths up with descriptions and notes on whether a vessel requires a captain, required crew for rowing, if any; miles/day and movement rate as well as required sailors, miles/day and movement rates when actually sailing – so yeah, we actually can use quite a few of these both with rowed movement and driven by sails. And yes, we get notes for reduced crew-sizes. Heck, we even get fast-play naval combat, including notes on how many catapults you can fit on a vessel, whether a ram can be added and rules for regular and pitch-catapult shots. This section, as a whole, is impressive: Without knowing them by hard or looking up the original rules, it’s impossible to determine where the author has improved the material: The streamlining is utterly seamless. Huge plus!

 

From there, we take a look at mercenaries next, noting AC, base morale, wage per month, etc. as well as morale based on common types found; fanatical soldiers will have better morale than a peasant militia, for example. Hiring specialists, from oarsmen to navigators to spies and alchemists is detailed next, noting a variety of uses. And yes, you need engineers to build strongholds and castles, which brings me to the next section that the book does exceedingly well: We first get a 7-step-checklist, and permission to build towns, maintenance of cleared lands as well as notes on settlers and taxation are provided alongside a selection of standardized structures with features, dimensions and associated costs noted. And yes, we get rules to make bastions, custom towers and castle walls. For full details, we also get a brief table of interior details: Different doors, arrow slits, shifting walls, trapdoors, etc. This section is a definite winner and closes the book on a high note.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant and aesthetically-pleasing two-column standard that uses nice, pastel-green shades to make tables easier to read. As in the first book, we get a MASSIVE amount of really nice, original b/w-artworks provided by a cadre of talented artists – this is a beautiful book. The pdf comes with extensive, nested bookmarks, making the handling of the electronic version simple and comfortable.

 

As for editions, the standard edition is perfect bound, while the premium version has higher quality paper, better color and ink saturation and comes stitch-bound, which is per se preferable. It should be noted, though, that you should exert a bit of care with the staple-bound version. While superior to the standard edition, this is a pretty thick book for the binding, so if you handle it really roughly, the staple can potentially come out. This is not an issue of the book per se, but rather of the manufacturing process. As before, we get something really fair, namely a plain-text version of the material here, sans all the beautiful art. I applaud this, though I very much recommend the premium version for the optimal experience.

 

Gavin Norman’s second B/X-Essentials-book is a fantastic continuation of the design-paradigms and organizational aesthetics presented in the first book; the presentation is stream-lined and modifications to the original rules are kept to the bare minimum, emphasizing faithful depictions of the classic rules. At the same time, the book does not shirk away from fixing problems with the source-material in an unobtrusive and elegant manner. The organization of the content is as precise and elegant as we expect after the great Core Rules.

 

I’d like to use this review to posit an alternate way of thinking about this booklet: This is basically the “traditional fantasy toolkit” for the base B/X-rules-chassis presented, minus the spellcasting details (since many groups employ their own sub-systems there); in short, if you get this and the Core Rules-pdf, you’re basically set up for classic adventuring; just add spellcasting details as desired. This, as a consequence means, that we can potentially hope for other such tomes; for example, one for horror games, one for scifi-games, etc. This is just me, mind you; the material remains as hackable as ever and as open to modification as you’d like it to be. In short: This is an excellent offering and very much recommended if you’re looking for a well-presented, concise take on the much-beloved, classic B/X-rules. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool booklet here on OBS!

 

You can get the FREE plain-text version here on OBS!

 

Missed the core rules? You can find these here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 212018
 

Village Backdrop: Silver Bluff (system neutral)

This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement!

 

Silver Bluff is a mining town with a twist – sprung up as little more than a better camp, it began in a promising manner…but then, the mine’s silver started to run out. Let’s just say that the local population did not take kindly to these changes and the ramshackle ethnic composition alongside the lack of a governing body mean that this is very much a dangerous place to be. As far as the system neutral version is concerned, the pdf uses proper nomenclature, like thief, etc. and the conversion of the marketplace section is nice.

 

The vast chasm that separates the camp from the mine is also one of the reasons why this village is haunted by howling windstorms, which also influence the dressing habits of the place. The pdf does feature notes on nomenclature, appearance of locals and 6 rumors for your convenience. The village also features notes on the local tavern, paranoid representatives …this is not the nicest place to spend your time, though e.g. mountain climbing equipment and a local dwarven cleric can help adventurers here. The pdf also features no less than 6 sample events…and one glorious hazard, which would be the semi-sentient, disintegrated machine that slowly regains its sentience and becomes a lethal, unique hazard – stopping it will be hard. The hazard has been converted properly into the context of old-school games.

 

In an example of less is more, the notes of what’s hidden in the chasm feel a bit less intriguing and tied to the settlement – by emphasizing the wind theme instead, it would have become even more compelling…but that may just be me.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP’s patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

 

Mike Welham’s Silver Bluff is an evocative village with unique hazards and a nice theme. While it does not reach the apex of the series, the village still remains an excellent purchase and is well worth the low asking price. The system neutral version does not lose any component of the appeal of the original iteration. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this cool settlement here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.