Oct 302014
 

Demiplanes: The Twilight Demesne

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This installment in Raging Swan Press’ new series detailing Demiplanes clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So what is the Twilight Demesne? Well, the easy answer would be that it’s a truly dark forest – one wove from the Plane of Shadow and thus a fluif, self-contained place with normal gravity. Ingress and egress to the plane, planar traits (like enhanced light/darkness descriptor magic) and impeded magic – all covered.

 

Notable denizens and a lore-section as well as a 20-entry dressing table ensure that you have the tools to drive home that the players are not in Kansas anymore, often also utilizing mechanics beyond fluff – neato!

 

Beyond that, the starlight shrine, where petitioners can divine the future if they manage to parley with the enigmatic keeper (a fully statted CR 12 kitsune oracle) or brave the dangerous midnight labyrinth of folded spaces that brings new meaning to being lost in the woods, a grove, the permanently in darkness clad willow and its guardian… More beckons – take for example kytons that were subjected to the keeper’s wrath, now remaining as dendrified, stunted and thorny trees or the true, enigmatic creator of the place that I won’t spoil here…but seriously, what self-respecting adventurer can turn his/her back on a massive moon of jagged obsidian that contains a door of intricate clockwork locks and the things contained beyond this strange gate?

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press printer-friendly two-column b/w standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The original cartography for the supplement is cool and the pdf comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer.

 

Robert Brookes’ Twilight Demesne sets a very high bar for a first demiplane – iconic, distinctive, with adventure hooks and ideas galore, a cool NPC and truly memorable imagery, this opens the series with a perceptible bang! At the low price, a true steal and a supplement that can easily be integrated into just about any campaign – well worth 5 stars + seal of approval!

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Oct 302014
 

Mythic Monsters: Fairy Tale Creatures

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This installment of Legendary Games’ Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction on how to use, 1 page advertisement, 1 page blank inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

As has become the tradition with Mythic Monster-pdfs, we begin with supplemental information – which this time comes in the guise of mythic versions of fairy-tale associated spells – the call woodland beings variants and the faerie form spells and even the rather iconic fey crossroads spell receive a vast plethora of additional options, not only in the context of the mythic variants provided herein – two thumbs up!

Now the meat, of course, would be the fairy tale creatures provided herein -first f which would be the Mythic Banshee at CR 16/MR 6, who not only receives enhanced sonic tricks, despair-causing anguish and the like – she also gets an ability most iconic – conjuring forth a massive, spectral carriage to assault foes with! The creature is a superb example of the best in mythic monster design – taking all those iconic options and unique signature effects from mythology and making the creature truly distinct. Oh, and the mythic wail of the banshee is thankfully just as lethal as it ought to be!

At CR 12/MR 5, the mythic Boogeyman is a terror to behold as well – quite literally, for non-mythic creatures better gear up – immunity to fear may just disperse…Oh, and have I mentioned the great potential for rejuvenation? If you require more inspiration, combine this with the fluff of 3.5’s “Dark tales”-Ravenloft-sourcebook for adventure ideas galore.

In direct comparison, the CR 3/MR 1 mythic faerie dragon feels a bit less iconic – yes, suggestion may be nice, as would be the euphoria-inducing bite, but compared to the former two, it still feels a bit less inspired than it could have been. What about more illusions and similar prankster gambits? Especially since his brethren, the CR 3/ MR 1 Leprechaun with his memory lapse, hideous laughter etc. causing babblings and daze-causing shillelagh proves that the Legendary Games-team can make awesome low CR/MR-creatures with unique mythic signature abilities. Mythic Pixies would be another example here -at CR 5 / MR 2, these fellows can generate flying dust (à la Tinkerbell), illusory decoys and also receive better arrows – cool!

The CR 7/ MR 3 Mythic Green hag is once again back to form – enhancing the fearful cannibalistic notions of the base creature become grand stalkers that also can consume the dead or helpless – a terrifying prospect indeed, even before taking increased coven magic prowess into account – awesome and much closer to what the creature ought to be able to do. At the same CR/ MR, Mythic Redcaps, bitter and blasphemous and full of hatred for thieves, these guys are deranged slayers that neatly tie bleed with the theme of their caps – and if you require inspiration for these fellows beyond the cool abilities they receive, let me recommend “Van Richten’s Guide to the Shadow Fey” – another true gem of the 3.5 era that ranks among my favorite fey-related tomes ever. The Will-o’-wisp, at once again CR 7/ MR 3 receives the power to shoot electrical arcs (THANK YOU – Will-o-wisps sans these feel incomplete to me…) and their increased lure options also feel nice, but still – these guys feel like they could have used another ability – while I love that they can eat e.g. rages and effects the like, actually using these to fuel some other abilities would have been the icing on the cake.

Now, sometimes you just want an endgame killer – so what about a CR 28/ MR 10 Jabberwock receive even more deadly options (like tail sweeps), lethal average damage outputs further increased by the option to SKIN GRAPPLED PEOPLE ALIVE and healing resistant wounds – urgh. Ouch. Beautiful, deadly, all I want from such a beast, including an updated fear of vorpal weapons.

The CR 18/ MR 7 Mythic Jubjub Bird may spring attack with full attacks thanks to mythic power and is lethal in its own right – these harbingers of slaughter are NOT to be crossed lightly. Oh, and their shriek actually can kill foes via sonic damage and much like its jabberwock brethren, it features planar acclimatization.

Mythic Unicorns at CR 4/MR 1 receive an aura of purity and receive an increased healing option via their horn, learning to use mythic power to apply mercies. Per se, there is nothing wrong with these fellows, but I still would have loved this to go slightly further – perhaps it’s due to Middle Ages Bestiarium correlations assigning the unicorn with the figure of Christ, but I always felt the poor creatures could have used more abilities to represent their unique natures. Perhaps it’s also due to the romantic in me still getting a bit teary-eyed at “The Last Unicorn” – I don’t know. What I do know is that I prefer this unicorn over the non-mythic one and wished it had gone even further.

 

EDIT: It seems like my file was, once again, not properly updated on OBS. The revised version that since then has found its way into my claws also sports a true beauty of a statblock – the frumious bandersnatch at CR 23/MR 9. If you thought bandersnatches were bad news – wiat till you have these guys at half hp and they BURST INTO FRIGGIN’ FLAMES! The beast’s entry spans a massive 2 pages and provides a big bad brutal beast that will send characters (and potentially their players) whimpering!

And now, the creature we’ve all been waiting for – this installment’s unique, new creature, the Boojum Snark at CR 10/ MR 4.- these creatures are part walrus, from the hip downwards look like tentacles of giant squids, live in hermit crab-like shells and can be charmed easier by SOAP. Oh, and their gaze can send you towards the realms of the fey. See, THIS GETS fey; The creature is evocative, weird and the full-page artwork reflects that just as well as the stats.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ 2-column full-color standard for the Mythic Monster-series and the 2 full page full color original pieces of artwork by Mike Lowe fit awesomely with the aesthetics of other fey-themed Legendary Games-supplements. The pdf has a bookmarked ToC, but not the usual bookmarked navigation help almost all pdfs come with these days, which constitutes quite a comfort detriment in my book. That being said, Mr. Legendary Games Jason Nelson is on to fixing these and since I do not doubt his integrity in the least, I know this will be fixed asap as well.

Jason Nelson, Alistair Rigg, Tom Phillips and Benjamin Bruck have delivered quite a fine array of fairy tale creatures straight from the myths – and with quite a less pronounced focus on fey than I would have imagined, I might add. And these creatures feature some of my favorite beings in the genre – which is both a blessing and a curse in this installment. Having researched a lot of these critters, I am hard to surprise regarding the respective tricks they sport and have conversely an exceedingly high expectation – also due to the years upon years of Ravenloft-DMing and gobbling up just about all fey-related books I could get my hands on. That being said – it’s HARD to impress me in that regard anymore and I expected this to fall short. It did not. And that should be considered quite an achievement. Some of the beings herein did actually come over with the superb array of options I expected and wanted to see and the weirdness of the new critter falls square into this area – unique, cool, two thumbs up.

On the other hand, while the vast majority of creatures herein adhere to this superb level, here and there one or two creatures fall a bit behind their brethren – they are “only” good, not superb. Combined with the lack of bookmarks, this makes me settle on a final verdict of 5 stars….

EDIT: …And with bookmarks coming up AND one glorious beast of a bonus crature, this is now well worth a final verdict of 5 stars PLUS seal of approval!

You can get these cool creatures here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 302014
 

Treasures of NeoExodus: Gentle Hand of the Law

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This installment of the Treasures of NeoExodus-series clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page of SRD/editorial, 1/2 a page advertisement, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The gentle hand of the law is a powerful weapon – steeped in a history that could have stemmed from the tales of real life religious warriors, these beloved weapons, named in honor of the lady commander of the Caneus Empire’s high guard – the mace would be a +1 merciful spell-storing heavy mace that also deals dexterity damage on crits and causes targets hit by the critical to drop anything they hold – neat, elegant idea.

 

The pdf also provides one page of weapon-cards to print/cut out.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to LPJr Design’s drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf features a glorious original artwork of the weapon. The pdf comes in a more printer-friendly full-color version as well and while both pdfs have no bookmarks, at this length they need none.

 

Author Jeff Lee weaves a compelling yarn and provides a nice weapon with a unique bonus ability – well done, nothing to complain, my final verdict will be 5 stars.

 

You can get this neat weapon here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 292014
 

The Genius Guide to the Shadow Warrior

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This pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Shadow Warriors are master of fighting with exotic weapons – beyond their proficiency in simple and martial weapons and light and medium armors and shields and in one exotic weapon of the shadow warrior’s choice. The class also receives weapon focus in said exotic death-dealing implement and at 2nd level and every level thereafter, the shadow warrior may select an additional exotic weapon to master – and weapon focus applies to these as well, allowing you to easily play a master of an arsenal of weird weapons. Speaking of bonus feats – at 3rd level and every 3 thereafter, the class receives one.

 

Now beyond these, the class receives d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB-progression and good ref and will-saves – not fort-saves. Unusual decision, but personally…I like it. Speaking of which – to represent the “shadow” component, fighting in darkness via Blind Fight and scaling sensory benefits that even end in seeing across planar boundaries to the coexisting Plane of Shadow as a part of the capstone. This affinity also translates into a scaling bonus to skills and initiative in dim illuminations.

 

Of course, this would be no Rogue Genius Games-class sans a copious amount of talents – the shadow warrior receives one at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, but before I give you a brief overview of these, let me mention Dread Tactics – at 4th level, shadow warriors using weapons for which they have weapon focus (i.e. exotic weapons, most likely) deal additional damage that scales from +1d6 to +4d6. Now some shadow talents replace the effect of this damage-increase – a total of 15 such talents are provided and range from passive benefits like evasion to dread tactics dice DR, dread tactics dice as bonus to AoOs and skill checks as a kind of even better mobility, etc. Low-light vision and darkvision, adding damage when using a weapon matching the executed combat maneuver and better two-handed weapon fighting – solid array.

 

Improved stealth even in broad daylight and better skills in the dark – solid. Starting 10th level, the class receives kind of supernatural tricks -shadow style. The first is granted at 10th level, the second at 19th and they tend to scale either by ability or by ability-type. The shadow styles include calling forth shadow servants, attacking touch attack AC when completely concealed from the target greater invisibility and similar darkness-themed spell-like effects to a small array of proper low level spells, firing str-damaging bolts of shadow or conjuring forth blades of shadow. The capstone allows the shadow warrior to ethereal jaunt or plane shift a limited amount of times per day.

 

Extensive advice for using these guys in one’s game is provided, as are two archetypes – the deathstalker, who replaces the shadow warrior’s bonus feats with a limited selection of inquisitions and receives a very limited array of death/necromancy/repose-themed spells of up to 4th level in lieu of dread tactics. The second archetype, the shadowsinger, receives more skills and can conjure forth the shadow of a perished skald to deliver bardic style performances – at the cost of all shadow talents – think of this one essentially as the shadow bard, as dread tactics are postponed to 14th level in favor of more bardic themed options.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and hyperlinked for your convenience. The pdf comes with thematically-fitting stock-art apart from the cover, though this time around the particular artworks have been used in a lot of 3pp publications. That does not make them bad, I just felt obliged to mention that.

 

Owen K.C. Stephens delivers an interesting take on the master of exotic weapons and his trademark genius does shine within these pages – the mechanics to make the exotic weapon focus work is awesome and tying mechanics to dread tactics makes for one damn cool design approach. I also enjoy the move away from the full-BAB-fort-save combination and the sample characters I made, went over well and efficient. But it felt like it was missing something. After some careful deliberation, I realized what that was – the class has all those cool design-decisions and then doesn’t make that much of them – the respective talents more often than not come over as rather conservative, which is by no means a bad thing – but in a class that has these cool, intricate parts that could be tied closer together, they feel a bit like they belonged to a less inspired version of the class.

Now this will read more harsh on paper than it is intended, so I apologize in advance – but this class to me felt half experimental (in the best way), awesome, cool…and half bland. Now don’t get me wrong, I *do* like many components here and I *love* what has been done with exotic weapons and dread tactics, but the class does feel a bit like it went half way, then opted for a more conservative, less awesome rest of material. This reads very much like two completely different design-philosophies had been blended and the result is slightly less than it could have been.

A capable DM willing to design additional talents will have a field day here, but those unwilling to add to the selections may make the class feel restricted – the 2 okay, but not particularly inspired multiclass-ish archetypes just don’t fill the void that these cool design options have left open, especially since they take away/cripple the most iconic features of the class. Another oversight in my book would be the lack of synergy with the shadow assassin class, which could have yielded some damn cool combinations – focus/dread tactics? Yeah! What about allowing these guys to switch around weapon qualities? The ideas are lurking beneath the lines, but I can’t rate the potential – which is exceedingly high. Hence, I can only settle on a final verdict of 4 stars. If you want to tinker with this, design yourself or don’t mind more conservative designs that do not realize their full awesome potential, be sure to pick this up right now – for you, this scores even higher.

 

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 292014
 

The Sinking: Locks of the Panopticon

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This installment of the Sinking-mini-modules clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

Still here? All right!

With a massive bounty on their heads, courtesy of the Trypus Acadamae, the PCs hopefully have managed to flee the city once again towards their refugee camp, where blood senator Vulgrax may actually prove helpful with the help of the information the PCs have uncovered – the PCs are presented with a blade with weird etchings that may prove to be from the hold the Malchort Cabal operates from/seeks to control – the fabled Panopticon. (And yes, if this does not feature an omni-scrying device, I will be very much disappointed for using cool terminology and then failing to deliver.)

 

Now via the lost tunnels in the Vulgrax’s old holdings, the PCs may penetrate the fortress of the Malchort -however, they will have to succeed in elementally-themed challenges – from freezing cold subterranean lakes with sea serpents, magma lakes etc. – the challenges per se being simply awesome: They actually require brains as well as brawns to solve and e.g. challenge the player’s logic with an AWESOME poem/light-based puzzle. Or the puzzle would be awesome. However, the map actually lacks *some* of the crucial colors required to solve the riddle – the map is supposed to show which squares are which color, but fails to list more than half of them. I am so sorry for the author, but this is utterly sloppy and renders the module unwinnable as written. While *any* DM can just randomly assign colors to squares, rendering this a non-issue, it still is a glitch I cannot let stand.

 

Finally bypassing a crystal dragon and dread undead guardians, the PCs can penetrate the panopticon through the Darkgate…where the final chapter of The Sinking awaits!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are per se not bad, but he glaring oversight on a map that renders a puzzle unsolvable as written without the DM using fiat is simply inexcusable. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with cool, original b/w-artworks and 0onegame’s great cartography. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked for your convenience.

 

I am so very sorry for author John Ling. He has delivered an array of solid challenges, which, while in theme being of the “been there, done that” type, in execution, panache and flair more than make up for the classic theme. This module would usually be one I’d recommend – not with the highest accolades, but still – especially for the low price, this is a fun ride with cool ideas and I love it if players need to use their brains as well. But the glitch with the map is beyond severe…it’s unpleasant to say the least and for more than one person, it may actually ruin the whole module. Hence, I can’t rate this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 – and only due to a DM being able to relatively easily fix the issue. Otherwise I would have ragequit the review right then and there. Fans of The Sinking still need to get this, of course.

 

You can get this module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 292014
 

Player’s Options – Awalim

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This installment of the Player’s Option-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the Awalim!

 

So what is the Awalim? On a crunch-level, the class receives d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and 1 exotic weapon of her choice and her dancer’s outfit (which is weird, since the outfits are not armors) and also 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-save progression. Depending on the base dancer’s outfit chosen, the awalim receives an additional class skill. The awalim’s elegance also acts as a kind of armor – she receives her cha-mod as a dodge bonus to AC, twice that amount against targets that potentially are attracted to her, but only if the target has an int over 3, making her susceptible towards unintelligent creatures. At 2nd, 8th, 12th and 16th level, these bonuses increase.

 

At 1st level, an awalim selects 3 dances and at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, she receives either an additional dance or increases the power of one dance she already knows. These increases do require certain minimum levels, though. To use a dance, an awalim has to succeed a perform (dance)-check versus 10 + ( 5 x the dance’s grade) as a full-round action AT the end of a dance, she receives the effect called infusion assigned to the dance, for a number of rounds equal to the awalim’s preceding dance. Once an awalim has failed an amount of Perform (Dance)-checks per day equal to her cha-mod, she needs to rest to regain her use of dances.

 

Endure Elements is part of the deal and at high levels, natural attacks and touch attacks (but oddly not unarmed strikes – an oversight?) result in cha mod x 1d6 untyped damage, save halves – which is nasty. Vastly improved aid another and a dance-effect doubling capstone round out the class.

 

Now dances – what do they do? Now that question isn’t as easy to answer as I’d want it to be – each dance features an “inspiration” and an “influence” for each of the grades of the dance- alas, the dance-ability does not establish this terminology, which leads me to the following deduction – inspirations generally provide passive benefits, influences active ones like claw attacks etcetera. Alas, here the class breaks apart – claws that do not specify whether they are primary or secondary natural attacks, effects that read ” DR 1/cold iron for each point of Charisma bonus you”[sic!]- where’s the end of the sentence? Acid spit that does not specify whether it’s a ranged attack, ranged touch attack or splash? Yep. All of these. Plus – the effects imply that the awalim CAN do things while dancing, which contradicts the mechanics to maintain a dance. The central feature of the class, alas, does not work…at all. Specifying what kind of “reposition” one of the dances delivers…I could go on for ages. Utterly broken.

 

A total of 11 different feats for additional outfits, energy resistances, extending attractions to all members of a creature type, decreased perform-DCs for a dance and better damage etc. output with weapons or bonus energy damage with ranged weapons – generally, a solid selection. Lying in sunlight to regain hit points with a solid limit also makes for a cool idea. On the other hand, attacking via the heal skill is broken – skills as attack rolls adhere to a different system. I won’t repeat my rant on how easy skills can be gamed in Pathfinder, just know that this feat does not work as intended in the hands of even a moderately gifted player.

 

The pdf also comes with a nice sample level 1PC.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect -a tad bit more streamlining regarding the rules would really help this class. Layout adheres to PDG’s printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity – nice.

 

Sasha Hall’s Awalim, a kind of battle-belly-dancer is conceptually glorious – the idea of the class rocks, but the class does require some serious work – the central mechanics of the class does not work at all as intended and needs serious fixing and alas, the same extends to some of the balancing – double attribute modifier to AC can be easily gamed, but the MAD of the class makes me see past that. Still, this one feels very much like a gem in the rough – the terminology and actual central mechanic need clearing up, but once they work, this will be a nice class to play. My final verdict will hence clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 stars for now, with the explicit note that once this class works as it ought to, it’ll probably find a home in the upper echelons of my rating system.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 082014
 

Hej everybody!

 

Currently, a couple of exceedingly cool Kickstarters are running:

 

LPJr Design: Obsidian Apocalypse  -Cross of Fire

What is it?

A KS for an adventure-arc that dips into the apocalyptic and dark, written by Steve Helt, among others; this one can use some love – the bang-for-buck-ratio looks neat and there simply aren’t that many modules that are this high-concept. Print-buy-in is also relatively low and if Obsidian Apocalypse was any indicator, the full color books will be gorgeous! I’d love to see this one fund!

 

Misfit Sudios: The Adequate Commoner

What is it?

J.M. Perkins wants to deliver a sourcebook that helps you play commoners for a completely different playing experience! The book is fully funded, so no risks on that end – for low level/gritty gaming, this will be a damn cool resource.

 

Frog God Games: Quests of Doom

What is it?

A collection of extremely deadly modules in the vein of the classic “Vampires and Liches” and “Devils & Demons”, brought to you by the masters of old-school modules – and the bang-for-buck-ratio is ridiculously good; Also: Excellent international shipping and low print-buy-in. pretty much a no-brainer if you like old-school.

Also: Once I’m back, I’ll share my personal, utterly insane modification of one of the modules, in case your players complain that even those hard modules are too easy…and yes, my players made it through the modified version…but can yours? Difficulty: EZG-insane. If people enjoy these, I might make a series of it. :)

 

Kobold Press: Southlands

What is it?

The sequel to Kobold Press’ superb Northlands, this kickstarter went rather viral and is chewing like stretchgoals like cheerleaders through bubblegum. If the sands and jungles and pulp interest you even in the slightest, this will probably be a no-brainer. This is one glorious beast, though the buy-in for all print books is rather high.

 

If I wasn’t as dirt-poor, I’d back all of these in an instant! As things stand, I’m hoping I’ll be able to back at least one of them.

 

On another note, ladies and gentlemen – I have been fortunate enough to have a chance to improve potentially my lot in life and thus will be on a two-week trip, during which real life will probably keep me from spending any extensive period of leisure time in front of a screen. This translates to infrequent reviews starting tomorrow; I can’t promise to get any done until I return, though I’ll try. Upon my return, more reviews will hit site – probably at the frantic pace you’ve seen in the last couple of days – I’m catching up, ladies and gentlemen! :D

 

Have a good one and THANK YOU. You, dear readers, are who I do this for. My ramblings are nothing without you and I am grateful for your trust, support and encouraging words when I’m down. May your days be filled with joy!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 082014
 

GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing

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This massive tome clocks in at 399 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 3 pages of short author bios (which should be included in any roleplaying game supplement – seriously, help the talented folk that craft these books get all the recognition they can!), 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than 388 (!!!) pages of content, making this one of the longest books I’ve ever reviewed, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

When I reviewed “Shadowed Keep of the Borderlands” and similar adventures by Raging Swan Press (if you haven’t checked these out – get them!), the one thing that caught my eye the most was the sheer brutal amount of details – you know, terrain features, things to actually do, that rendered them so…alive. Concise. Believable. The details mostly absent from many new-school modules, the level of detail lost in many a module since the 3.X days in favor of long statblocks. Well, the series that spawned from the genius realization that details are important would be the Dressing-lines, which contain some of the most ridiculously useful information for any DM you can find – not only for Pathfinder, but for any system.

 

This is not all that made Raging Swan press modules stand out – remember those dungeons where monsters were placed with neither rhyme, nor reason, wondering how the dragon got into the dungeon etc. – and the annoying rationale “MAGIC!”? Well, this book can be considered the ultimate rebuttal to this type of sloppy design – providing concise information on how to craft intricate dungeons that actually make sense. Basic observations from “Who amde the dungeon?” and “For what purpose?” to former roles it may have had to who actually knows about these tidbits of lore are only the tip of the ice-berg: Considering food and water, access, predators and the like, making good unoccupied rooms that tell stories. Every DM and especially any worldsmith should check these out. Advice on handling a dungeon’s physicality (vertical shafts, terrain threats etc.) are provided alongside special considerations for mega-dungeon design and even alternate dungeon designs (of which one can now find a new series by RSP…) – the advice provided here is presented so concisely, it could be deemed a proper checklist for making good dungeons, one that any DM should take a long, hard look at.

 

Now you may already know that this book collects the numerous Dungeon Dressing-pdfs in one handy tome – but do you realize the extent of what is in here? The following installments are collected herein: Altars, Archways, Bridges, Captives, Ceilings, Chests, Corpses, Doom Paintings, Doors, Double Doors, Dungeon Entrances, Dungeon names, Fiendish Traps I + II, Floors, Fountains, Gates & Portals, Goblin’s Pockets, Legends I + II, Mundane Chest Contents, Pits, Pools, Portcullises, Sarcophagi, Secret Doors, Simple Magic Traps, Stair, Statues, Tapestries, Thrones, Trapdoors, Walls and Wells. Additionally, the 3 “So what’s the Riddle like, anyways?” are part of the deal and an extensive excerpt from the immensely useful “All that Glimemrs”-compilation has also been provided, sporting a total of 20 treasure hoards at your disposal – after all, dungeons need treasure!

 

Now you probably have seen that one coming – but I have written reviews for ALL OF THE ABOVE. Yeah. Looking at it from my current vantage point, I feel somewhat OCD…be that as it may, you can easily look up all those reviews, so no, I won’t repeat myself and cover all of these again. Even if I did, the resulting review would probably clock in at more than 20 pages, so yeah.

 

What I *do* focus on here would be the new content provided – let’s begin with new Fiendish Traps, shall we? A total of 3 new ones of these nasty, complex traps are provided, making essentially “Fiendish Traps III” a part of the deal here. The first here makes for an exceedingly smart trapped puzzle-lock for an undead (or similar creature’s) lair: Different alcoves contain different skulls, with each skull representing one of the bare necessities of life – hunger, thirst, etc. – in order to open the vault door, all traps have to be triggered at the same time, resulting in magic-induced thirst, famine, suffocation and an attack by an animate dream…Ouch and oh so iconic and cool! The defense-hallway sporting poisonous gas and fetchling snipers is nasty as well, as is the traps that is a variant of the classic endless falls, which also adds a temporal distortion to the whole deal – awesome!

 

Now one of the most overlooked and easiest way to make a dungeon not work is to not get the illumination/sight-question of the inhabitants right. Sans darkvision, inhabitants better have some sort of way to provide for sight – and since this one is also combat-relevant, it will come up – I guaranteed it. Hence, we have one of the most useful DM-cheat-sheets of the whole series in this new chapter, providing everything you need to know in that regard rules-wise at one glance. Want to know how this goes even faster – whether braziers, candelabras (1 page each), fireplaces (2 pages), lanterns, magical lights, torch sconces (all 1 page) – the book actually provides so much variation, you’ll never need to reply with “ehem…there are torches.” ever again – detailed, versatile and downright brilliant, this chapter is glorious in its evocative details, even before the 2 new light-based traps.

 

Now of course, one can note that the topics of the book mentioned above do not cover every potentiality of dungeon exploration or design – hence, the book also covers carpets and rugs, evidence left by previous explorers (foreshadow those hostile NPC-groups!), grafitti,, junk and rubbish, mirrors, eeerie atmospheres (!!!), clothes and possessions, strange magical affects, strange smells, strange sounds, specialized priest’s and wizard’s chests, provisions, mirrors, odds and sundries, clothes and miscellaneous possessions and YES! LOCKS! The oversight of all door-pdfs now receive their own table! Each of these new tables is at least one page strong, with several covering 2 pages and the locks coming with DC/cost/quality-cheat-sheet mini-table. Wow. Just wow.

 

It should be noted that, for your convenience, the book also provides 2 pages of index for traps by CR ( with the CR covering the range from None to 15 and providing page numbers) and statblocks by CR (ranging from 1/2 to 9, also with page numbers) for easier navigation.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are thoroughly impressive – I have seldom seen a book of this size with this high quality in these two regards – top-notch and awesome. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf can be considered printer-friendly. Artwork is fitting b/w and the pdf comes in two versions, one to be printed out and one for screen use. But unless you went full-blown tablet, I’d suggest you get the gorgeous hardcover – I have it and its binding is professional and both paper and glossy cover make this tome a beauty of elegance indeed.

 

The authors Ben Armitage, Alexander Augunas, Aaron Bailey, John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Erwin, James Graham, Brian Gregory, Eric Hindley, Ben Kent, Thomas King, Greg Marks, Andrew J. Martin, Jacob W. Michaels, Julian Neale, Chad Perrin, David Posener, Brian Ratcliff, Pierre van Rooden, Liz Smith, Josh Vogt, Mike Welham can be proud indeed – why? Because this book is a milestone.

 

I’m not engaging in hyperbole when I say that this belongs in the arsenal of every DM – period. I had the individual pdfs before and I used them – quite extensively, mind you, but this is something different. Sit down with it and start rolling – in less than 30 minutes you’ll have an extremely detailed dungeon at your fingertips, with players not realizing that the complex you created not stemming from a professional module, but from your pen. That is, they may realize it, since this book renders your dungeons memorable, awesome and makes SENSE.

 

Much like the superb “Wilderness Dressing”-book, the organization in this tome is one of the subtle, yet downright brilliant components – the arrangement of the components may be neat – but there’s something apart from that which makes this work so much better than its component pdfs. Beyond collecting all in one handy tome, this book eliminates the small blank spaces left by the component pdfs – the small odds and ends, the carpets, the locks – what has been missing before now is simply there.

 

Another scenario – you’ve bought a module and like the dungeon, but it feels sterile, perhaps due to page-count not sufficing? Use this book and in less than 10 minutes, you’ll potentially have a dungeons your players will talk about for years to come.

 

I’ve beaten around the bush long enough – not only for Pathfinder, but for just about any fantasy-system, this massive book is a godsend. If you have a dungeon, you need this book – it’s simple as that. I’ve been using it in my game ever since I got my greedy hands on it and the sheer massive amount of content and awesomeness in this book is enough to make dungeons feel alive once again. Yes, not all components are super-duper-mega-awesome, but that fact remains that the majority *is* just that – and that the sum here is so much more than its component parts.

 

This is one of those very few mile-stone supplements that simply offer no reason not to get them – the extremely fair, low price point (for this amount of content!) adding a significant, further dimension to the awesomeness that is this book. I wouldn’t ever want to miss this glorious tome and

 

I’m running out of superlatives fast – so let’s end this -this book is a must-have.

 

An instant classic.

 

One of the most useful books I’ve ever had the pleasure to review.

 

If you don’t have this book, it’s high time you’ll add it to your library. I guarantee that you’ll love this – and if that’s not enough, Raging Swan Press does have a money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.

 

This book is a hot contender for the number 1 spot of my Top Ten of 2014. My final verdict is 5 stars + seal of approval – the maximum of my scale and had I any other scale, it would score that high still. This book henceforth also is part of the books I consider essential for any campaign – hence, it receives the “EZG Essential”-descriptor.

 

This must-have book, this monument, can be bought here on OBS or here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 082014
 

Campaign Guide: Plight of the Tuatha

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This campaign guide clocks in at 84 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 77 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So this is the campaign guide (essentially a gazetteer) to the world of Aeliode, in which Mór Games’ impressive “Plight of the Tuatha”-saga takes place – we had so far been spoon-fed quite an array of intriguing tidbits and pieces, but this book constitutes the first extensive look at the world, so does it hold up?

 

Well, first of all, it should be noted that Tim Paul’s cartography of the world, provided once in a one-page and once in a two-page version, is compelling – a world of two continents, with a third, ice-cold continent at the North Pole, the cartography delivers – beautiful, compelling and a first nod at the things to come, for the original full-color artworks herein manage to uphold this level of quality.

 

Now usually, campaign setting kick off with races and this one does something somewhat different – we start with the great empires – essentially, we are introduced to the Avitian empire, its latest acquisitions and the other major power-players. Now here’s the smart thing regarding this presentation – the roles of the races are different from place to place. Aforementioned empire has for example waged war against the dwarves and subjugated them, taking the nobles prisoner, while their subjects were allowed to remain – hence the former lower classes remain “free”, while the erstwhile nobility has been groomed into prized accountants, butlers and high-class servants, prohibited from growing or adorning their beards.

Different elven ethnicities and e.g. gnomes besieged by a divinely ordained pogrom, ever paranoid for the shapechangers that seek to end their race provide ample opportunities to flesh out clash of cultures-scenarios, while also providing alternate racial traits for different ethnicities. The elves of the ancient forests of Tir Ydrail, for example, tend to have darkvision instead of low-light vision. Now add to that the fact that the Roman-empire inspired empire has relatively recently been subject to the split-off of the Ceravossian Republic, who seeks a return to the republic as opposed to the Avitian cult of the emperor and we have, alone from the constellation of nations, a massive potential for compelling storytelling.

Want an example for how compelling story-telling is here? To a gnome, “showing your true colors” means cutting yourself to show that your blood is red and you’re not a shape-changer…mind you, whether this custom is based solely on superstition or not is very much left for the DM to decide…

 

Now apart from political and secular concerns for a character’s identity, the deities of Aeliode deserve special consideration – first of all, they may take an active role in the campaign’s plot; Secondly, they stem from various pantheons and are generally diverse – taking a cue from Midgard’s concept of masks of the gods, they do not sport alignments, being considered above paltry mortal moral concerns, though a typical alignment for worshippers is provided. Even the rather devious or quite simply mad divinities (each of which receives his/her own symbol, by the way) have some kind of revealing quality, with the arguably “most evil” deity falling rather close to what trickster deities in real world religions have wrought. Now interesting would be a distinction among deities – multi-planar deities are the pre-world-creation gods -they span multiple realities and even in death (in one case), make their influence known -here, the classic notion of the world being crafted from the body of a slain deity is reflected. This original sin or “Erblast”, if you will, also resulted in the first divine murderer being cursed with what amounts to schizophrenia, but more on this later. Aeliode is not restricted towards these deities – indeed, mortals can attain divinity, though these types of gods are restricted to the prime material plane – which adds the very real possibility of high-level PCs embarking to the planes to slay a god a possibility. Below these, there is another type of deity, one that has a limited area of influence – within the domain of the god (or saint) s/he/it may wield powers extraordinaire, but beyond it, their powers do weaken.

Why is this important? Well, first of all, you can take a cue from Ravenloft regarding story-weaving and this premise. Secondly, the importance of one’s heritage and ancestor cults is emphasized as a very distinct option -while not as powerful as true deities and limited in the spells granted, the sheer fact that it works (and that the emperor of Avitian has decreed himself to be a god and worshipped…) provides quite an array of cool options that would tie-in nicely with the classic “Requiem for a God”-style material. Now another interesting concept would be that of an enslaved pantheon – outlawed and defeated, the “Gods of Sorrow”, who are anything but evil, make for an interesting option to provide scenarios and metaplot.

 

Now the entries also provide so-called minor rituals – these can be performed to have a very small chance of attracting the attention of a deity, with the precise effects being left mostly to the DM. Now where the writing in this book hits its undeniable high point is in the creation myth that is provided – here, the scholar can rejoice, for yes, the fully narrated myth can stand its ground. Both in wording and footnotes provided, the concise illusion of a believable genesis myth is provided, depicting the aforementioned original sin and the resulting curse, while in its writing providing even more hooks and ideas to develop heresies around. Now the first murderer-deity (and unwitting creator of the world as they know it), once known as Ocheas, then as Volund was cursed for his unwitting slaying of the mother of creation, cursed with a duality and a new personality, the aspect of Balar – forever changing between the two personalities, his fall also resulted in the creation of the new race herein – the so-called Fomoire. Close to humans, they sport inhuman ability-traits, variyng heights (they may be large!) and should be considered in their violent, yet organized behavior the main threat for civilized nations and the elves in particular – who disperse if more than 10.000 are left in a land, for too high concentrations of them tend to attract the Fomoire… While perhaps a small thing, the fact that they need to drink salt water like other races require fresh water adds a damn cool dimension to the race…and if you haven’t noticed it, these guys could be considered a mix of guys from the iron isles, bacchantes and the fomorians – awesome. Oh, and actually balanced.

 

Now thankfully, Aeliode does not have “common”, so some attention to detail is given to languages and secret languages. A new 10-level PrC is also provided with the skald, who receives d10, full BAB-progression, good ref and will-save progression, full spellcasting progression and 4+Int skills per level. These guys can identify monsters per knowledge skills, receiving bonuses and also may wilder spell-selection wise in both bard and druid lists. Personally, I’m not sold on these guys – they receive too much – full BAB, good HD, full spellcasting with increased lists – and honestly, no cool abilities to set them apart. The skald should be required to pay for the increased martial prowess and spell-lists with more than 2 paltry skill points per level. For the first time in a supplement by Mór Games, I have to say that I won’t allow this PrC near my table.

 

The book also introduces a new skill, interrogate, to obtain information and provides rules for so-called “Wars of Words.” How do these work? Well essentially, they are a way to codify those endless discussions/roleplaying discussions some groups (mine including) are wont to indulge in. They are performed one-on-one. Each character receives a resolve point score of 5 + int, cha and wis-mod and a very limited array of wit-points, with which s/he can modify throws – the latter is based on level + bonus wit points that scale upwards with increasing levels. The fact that a character receives level wit points could have been more clearly emphasized in the rules here. That being said, each participant selects in secrecy one of various general strategies that have a damage and a defense assigned, which then are revealed to the discussing partners. The partners then start fighting, with the victor reduced to half points meaning a compromise is required. I really enjoyed this system, though it does require additional material – more options and especially the option to properly run it in discussions with more than two participants – while group discussions are mentioned, the suggested solution is rather unsatisfactory, but due to space concerns, the brevity is understandable.

 

Now what works perfectly is the renown-system that determines access to prestigious places and organizations, while at the same time requiring different celebrations in different lands. On the downside, the more famous, the easier obtaining knowledge about the character is… gaining renown is handled with concise, cool mechanics and fluff – kudos!

 

Now there is also a third cool system introduced – emergences. these are essentially story-benefits that can be obtained and lost -from breathing water to being able to eat just about anything, rituals, quests, achievements, curses and blessings – emergences are a powerful tool to portray the change of a character,. a glorious story-telling device and perhaps the strongest innovation of the book.

 

Beyond exceedingly cool, flavorful traits, we also are introduced to an array of damn cool NPCs with high-quality artworks to supplement your Imperiums game. Now a book steeped in so much world lore, we also receive an uncommon 6th chapter – containing 6 typical recipes for the diverse regions. Real recipes. And they actually deliver rather tasty results (at least the Paella-recipe did) – though one recipe should probably not be attempted – it’s rather cruel and thematically fitting for the setting, but not for real world reproduction.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, but not as good as in the other Mór Games-supplements – I noticed a couple of easily avoidable blank-space-glitches etc. Not many and not crucial ones, but they’re there. Layout adheres to Mór Games’ beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with gorgeous original full-color artworks galore – production-wise, this definitely is a premium product. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and the print-version comes on quality paper and the colors remain true – a quality softcover.

 

William Moomaw’s Aeliode has charmed me, I admit to that. The world-weaving of this world is awesome, superb even. The world jumps from the page, feels alive and compelling. Know how good the writing is? I actually, after staring at files and texts all day, took this one to bed with me because I simply didn’t want to put it away. I can’t wait for more insights into this world and the things to come for it. So that aspect is definitely one that can be ranked among the apex of products and well worth 5 stars +seal of approval. However, roleplaying games are fluff and crunch – art and craft. And in the craftsmanship-department, the relative inexperience becomes somewhat evident. While the new race, the actually relevant traits and the renown system are awesome, the Prestige Class is unbalanced and, sorry to be so blunt -boring. The poor skald needs some unique tricks and balancing. The War of Words makes for a great basic system, but one that could use some finetuning and especially a revision that allows for discussions with multiple participants – it does show promise, but it feels somewhat unpolished.

 

Now these gripes apply to the minority of the content herein and I’d e.g. be game for a whole book of emergences, more renown benefits etc. – the content that does work, which is the majority, is awesome and this book should be considered a great gazetteer, a promise of the glorious things that hopefully are to come, with enough space to develop all the cool ideas herein. Though it breaks my heart in the face of the GLORIOUS writing, I can’t rate this book higher than 4 stars -but still, if you want to see a Roman/Gaelic campaign setting that makes sense, that is different in texture and style, then this should be considered a must-buy.

 

You can get this glorious gazetteer here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 082014
 

You’re Gonna Die Screaming – Optimization Guide for Commoners

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This Pay-what-you-want-optimization guide clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so what exactly do we get here?

 

Firts of all – this is exactly what it says on the tin – an optimization guide. In case you’re not familiar with these, usually, a color code of Red, Green, Blue and Purple is applied to skills, feats, spells etc.pp. to denote at a glance the feasibility of options available.

 

That being said, personally, I’m not too big a fan of optimization to the oomphteenth degree, mainly because some of my players *are* into it – adhering strictly to these can get in the way of making a character rounded, if you adhere too strictly to a guide. Those little touches like your PC being a baker’s boy – they don’t contribute to the combat capabilities and thus are often left by the wayside. Rogue Genius Games proposed bonus skills per level for exactly such “non-relevant” skills and introducing this house-rule into my game helped quite a bit.

 

That out of the way, the more pressing question on your mind will probably be “Why play a commoner?” And the pdf delivers answers – in brevity, here are *my* answers, for I have actually already pulled off this stunt. 1) The challenge. My players are extremely capable and taking away all those class features makes for a very challenging game-play less based on system mastery and more on guerrilla warfare and player smarts. 2) Get a perspective. I do like my main campaign (the non playtesting one) gritty and beyond 15-point-buy, players are wont to forget *why* those commoners keep on buggering them to kill threat xyz – even 15-point-buy heroes are exactly that – HEROES. This means they have so much more capabilities to deal with threats than average joe. Playing a commoner can make that apparent and drive home the reason why those guys don’t deal with threats themselves. 3) Go for a tactics-high game. Every item, every purchase in a commoner game is relevant – each little bonus precious. 4) A change of pace. The PCs have been captured and those guys they saved time and again may now be their only hope – as an alternative to a TPK, the “PCs are captured”-scenario that has the players save their characters via commoners is better because the adversary not necessarily has underestimated the PCs, but failed to take those nameless, faceless losers into account – and that, ladies and gentlemen, is rather easy to justify and believe…

 

So these are my basic suggestions, so what does the pdf offer – well, essentially an optimization break down of attributes, core races, skills – one by one, with feasible and well-thought suggestions. It should also be noted that general combat styles (as in not-style-feats) receive their break-downs – suddenly those light crossbows and halfling slingstaffs don’t look so bad anymore, don’t they? Fascinating, what a few lacking attributes, feats and proficiencies can do…

 

It should be noted that even non-recommended styles d receive concise break-downs of options to make them work. Traits mainly are glanced over, with highlights pointed out.. Beyond these options, advice on granting at least a bit of starting gold, weapon-selection and magical/mundane items rounds out this pdf.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Misfit Studios’ two-column full-color standard with artworks ranging from b/w to full-color and being stock as far as I could tell. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

This is intended as a teaser and first introduction to the matter at hand for author J. M. Perkin’s “The Adequate Commoner” kickstarter to making commoners not suck…so much. As an optimization Guide, it does a decent job and is actually a good read, though you should be aware that it does not go through all options available at the level of detail found in some guides online – it can be considered a basic optimization guide that is well-written and actually fun to read. It offers smart advice for truly low-power-level gaming and as such can be considered a well-crafted book. This being a “Pay what you want”-file, it can be obtained for free, though I do suggest some sort of donation. But how much? Basically, this guide is good at what it is intended to do – it’s a teaser, a help, an introduction and does that job well. If you have expected a full-blown, ultra-detailed 100+page guide of covered options, well, then this pdf does not deliver – surprise.

 

What it’s intended to do, it does well and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 pages, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this guide for any price you want to pay here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.