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.

Oct 072014
 

Legendary Classes: Illuminatus – The Chaos Mage

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This supplement clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So what is the chaos illuminate or Illuminatus? First of all, the class would need to be non-lawful. It receives d6,4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, 1/2 BAB-progression, good ref and will-saves and spellcasting of up to 9th level via a unique spell-list. Speaking of spellcasting – while it does work via cha and spontaneous, the casting works different than for any other class – Illuminati don’t cast regular spells, rather learning to cast so-called wonders instead. Each wonder is associated with a d8-throw: Wonders are cast as a standard action with V, S and F -F? Yes, for to cast spells an illuminate requires a so-called implement, which they not only require to cast wonders, but also to use marvels, the first of which they acquire at 2nd level, +1 every 6 levels thereafter, depending on the implements the illuminate uses. Marvels are full-round action and of a varying ability type, hence adhering to different base-rules – save-wise, these adhere to the 10 +1/2 class level + cha-mod formula.

 

What about the chaos-aspect, you ask? Well, it’s simple – each casting of a wonder is accompanied by a roll of d8, with a 7 or 8 meaning that the respective illuminate can control the wonder to produce any effect. Otherwise, the illuminate has no control over the effect the wonder produces. However, the illuminate *does* have control on where the spells resulting from the wonders go off, allowing for a certain modicum of control. It should be noted that metamagic and item-use purposes et al have been covered in the system..and that this is not where the class ends.

 

The illuminate also receive a 1/day reroll of a d20, +1 re-roll at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 3+cha-mod times per day, the illuminate may also re-roll wonder-rolls or re-draw cards for abilities of magical item purposes (which adhere to a chaotic rule-set akin to that of casting wonders…) , should you choose to utilize cards when playing the class.

 

Now at 4th, 6th, 10th, 12th, 16th and 18th level, the illuminatus receives a so-called attainment, which essentially can be considered as the talents of the class, with the list being expanded by greater attainments at 10th level and even more with superior attainments, which are unlocked at 16th level. Attainments generally can range from reliable spell-like abilities (with interesting mechanics, like a 1-hour cool-down) and also contain interesting options that allow for a kind of primal flux (a wonder like fluctuation), duplication of an effect by subsequent re-castings of wonders on rounds following an individual cast. The attainments provided are extremely diverse and allow for quite a different array of builds, more so than one would expect from such a class.

 

Now in Purple Duck Games’ awesome tradition, we receive more favored class options than in any other supplement – psionic races, dragonkin, Fehr’s Ethnology-races, ARG-races – heck, even living ghuls and grindylow are covered. The FCOs span more than two pages – yeah, rather neat! Two thumbs up!

 

Now I already mentioned implements – these are important beyond acting as a focus, also influence, somewhat like bloodlines, the selection of wonders available to the illuminate -from books to bottles, cards etc., a total of 8 such complex suites being provided, the implements also defining the capstone marvels. The respective spell-lists of illuminati are hence all micro-tables of 6 possible spell-effects that are provided by school – for each spell-level. Mishap-effects, extensions of class abilities, chaotic metamagic and increased control over wonders can all be achieved with the selection of new feats. Unlike many similar supplements, the feats more often than not, do not require illuminatus class levels, allowing other classes to dabble in chaotic powers.

 

Speaking of which – the opportunity and wonder cleric subdomains, 3 mishap-centric rogue talents, the primordial wildblooded sorceror mutation and the arcane experimenter wizard archetype make sure that chaotic magic that is less predictable does not remain the providence of the illuminatus. Warping magic and adding mishaps as injury to the insult of having your spells dispelled, generating wild magic zones – the new spells herein do come in a nice variety and magic items like coins that either summon good or evil outsiders and knucklebones that generate catastrophes also add a bit of excitement to the game.

 

Beyond even these supplemental pieces of information, we actually do receive 2 universal mythic tier abilities to influence fates and duplicate mythic spells with wonders – and we also receive support for groups utilizing hero points in the guise of 3 unique attainments in addition to the vast array provided, as well as one exclusive subdomain. Finally, a sample character of 1st level completes this extensive, massive class book.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to PDG’s printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with purple accents and the pdf does sport some thematically-fitting full color artworks, though you may know some of these from other sources. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

Author David Nicholas Ross tries his hand at one of the more complex themes one can tackle regarding spellcasting – getting chaos magic right. On the one hand, you want a system that by design, delivers unexpected results, while still maintaining enough control to keep the class useful and relevant in game. Balancing the wonders and the associated spells among them must have been a rather challenging endeavor and the addition of attainment and their structuring in 3 different classes of power-levels as well as the abilities granted by implements allow for an array of different options to properly exert *some* control over the playing field. Beyond being mechanically interesting and innovative, the class delivers supplemental content galore that goes above and beyond making the concepts feasible for just about every world. Small fluff-boxes, feats and chaotic caster-level adjustments, mishaps – all these add another, neat dimension to the topic at hand and help bring the unpredictability back into magic. The illuminatus is a great class with cool options and one that is actually more complex than one would expect – the moving parts are neatly tied together, the class is easy to grasp and difficult to master and there are not that many classes of this high caliber out there. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval – add some chaos into your magic and make it feel magical and weird again!

 

You can get this awesome supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 072014
 

Underworld Races: Drow

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This supplement clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We kick off this installment of the Underworld Races with a general subterranean origin-myth for the races that inhabit the lightless depth of Aventyr – which can, coincidentally, be introduced with relative ease into other settings. Now part of this myth is the origin of the most famous of subterranean, evil races – the drow. The dichotomy and splitting of the elven races takes a more classic turn in the example of Aventyr than in Golarion’s take on being drow. The association with spiders and poison in the prominence of the Goddess Naraneus, a matriarchal society -all classic elements one may or may not like are in here.

 

In a nice twist, female and male drow receive different minor modifications to their skill sets and the favored class options provided are nice as well, though personally, I would have loved to see a gender-divide there as well. In a slightly problematic formatting decision, there are no new racial rules immediately following the header that announces them and we instead follow up with information on new equipment – either something got cut out here or the formatting is problematic.

 

Now drow receive some rather awesome alchemical items that massively influence the fighting styles of drow – from web shackles to webbing that may attach weapons via webbing to arms (great versus disarming or after throwing weapons) to the special ink and paper drow use make for cool options. Shadowy water that increases the potency of the stealthy drow, soldier’s rations and mage hand-utilizing gloves.

 

A total of 6 racial feats provide drow with further tricks -requiring less sustenance, receiving bonuses versus a specific target who managed to elude your wrath, a grudge-feat versus surface elves and one to master feinting with drow weapons make for nice ideas – especially arachnid acrobatics is cool – for an acrobatics-check, the drow temporarily receives a climb speed – yes, spiderman would be jealous.

 

The pdf also provides a new domain, the drow domain – the domain abilities allow the cleric to sheathe weapons in negative energy and take damage to improve the senses of the cleric – which per se is a cool ability. Taking damage for improved sight is cool…alas, as soon as a drow is undead, this ability has the unintended consequence of being a free, unlimited, if slow, healing option. Granted, since the duration of the improved sight is tied to the damage taken, the sight component becomes nigh useless, but who’d care?

 

This domain also provides a grand total of 9 new exclusive spells that allow you to render targets flat-footed for one round, clothe yourself in shadow or step through the shadows and even provide some protection against light-based attacks. What about making high-level undead that retain some of the capabilities of the deceased’s capabilities while they still had their mortal coil. The level nine spell is particularly nasty in the negative energy, ability damage and regular damage the spell deals – still (with leeching), the amount feels somewhat less than what I would have expected at ninth level – especially since the ribbons require touch attacks.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of bolding and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Myler & Julian Neale’s drow-sourcebook provides some nice options and especially the items herein can be considered truly awesome. The information on the society, items and some of the tricks the drow offer here are universally compelling and cool…but that being said, the domain just isn’t inspiring. It’s not bad, but neither is it glorious. While greatness can be found here, e.g. in the weapon webbing, the arachnid acrobatics etc., the pdf is a bit on the short end and for that; I do think that e.g. a glorious beast like the dvergr’s underminer or similar truly mind-boggling content would have helped this pdf. As written, it is a good, if not particularly remarkable book on drow and well worth a final verdict of 3 stars.

 

You can get this solid supplement here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 072014
 

The Cleric Reforged

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The first installment of TPK Games’ new take on established classes clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, so what does this pdf do? On a basic level, the class remains intact – channel energy progression remains the same, spells, save, BAB. Knowledge (local) has been added to the skill-list, which makes sense and the class gets 4+Int skills per level instead of the default 2+Int.

 

Now the table makes sure that you notice one thing – the domains have been rolled into the standard array of spells, but more on that slightly later.

 

At 1st levels, reforged clerics can choose to lose medium armor proficiency to receive an item crafting or metamagic feat. Nothing to complain here. The channel energy class feature gets a power-increase – at 7th and 15th level, the AoE of channel energy increases by 10 foot – which is rather powerful and something to be aware of, especially due to another option, the divine bolt. These are touch attacks, have a range increment of 30 feet and willing targets can easily be hit against AC 5. Critical hits with healing bolts heal twice the HP. Now on the one hand, this looks awesome. I *love* the critical healing etc. On the other hand, this is much more powerful in reality than on paper. Channel energy’s main drawback is that it does not discriminate – it requires planning, tactics, careful positioning (and a feat-tax!) if you don’t want to end up healing foes. This ability takes care of ALL of that. Add to that that it’s ranged in contrast to heal-spells and we have a VERY powerful ability – one too powerful for being an additional option. Now as a REPLACEMENT? Heck yeah! Now it’s an option, but one I’d caution DMs to carefully consider before allowing it. I’d suggest replacing vanilla channel here. It should also be noted, since the pdf does not explicitly specify it, that the bolt, RAW does provoke AoOs, so another reason to keep the cleric away from the front lines.

 

Now regarding domains and spellcasting the reforged cleric becomes interesting – the cleric loses the ability to spontaneously cast cure/inflict-spells and instead learn to cast the spells from their domains spontaneously. (Note that they may thus learn to spontaneously cast heal/inflict via domains.) At least that is what the designer’s notes spell out. And unfortunately, the Pdf immediately contradicts this by stating that the spontaneous casting remains. I’m not sure whether that’s a remnant, but personally, I think the standard spontaneous casting ought to go to make up for the increased flexibility granted by the domain-spontaneous-casting.

 

2nd level reforged clerics may expend channel energy to receive sacred/profane bonuses to one skill, save or attack roll as an immediate action. At 4th level, the reforged cleric receives a last second save that allows the cleric to channel a self-only divine energy as an immediate action upon being reduced to 0 HP. I like the intent here, but I consider the cost too low – this is essentially a built-in hero point-prevent-death system that refreshes daily. I could roll with 1/day or something like that as a FEAT or something like that, but flat-out? Nah. Clerics already have formidable buffs, armor and healing – they don’t need this additional insurance if played properly.

 

The capstone (YEAH – finally!), a permanent consecrate/desecrate aura is per se awesome, but imprecisely worded – “In addition, they deal their charisma modifier as channeling damage to creatures of opposing alignments within the aura.” Is that per round? Per channel? Clarification required!

 

The roleplaying advice and pointers toward variant channeling here are nice reads. A total of 28 feats follow…and they are partially horribly, terribly BROKEN. Take “Concussive Channeling” – when you channel energy, you also initiate a bull rush with cha instead of str to CMB for +1 channel energy. Now don’t get me wrong – the imagery is awesome. But the rules…Urgh. Ranged, or worse, AoE combat maneuvers? Just plain nasty, especially due to a lack of prerequisites. This can be taken at first level Same goes for AoE-tripping. Other feats add negative conditions to channel energy targets that failed to save, which is okay by me.

 

Want some more examples of utterly broken stuff that should have never made it past playtesting? What about Maximized channeling for 2 channel energy uses? Double range channel energy for the same cost? Or the utterly ridiculous ranged channel at 25 ft + 5ft. per level for +1 channel energy? I do not hate the idea of essentially metamagic channeling – there are feats for that. But if you start treating AoE-healing like spells, you break balance…HARD. There’s a reason the mass heal spells are that high a level. Add selective channeling and things become utterly and totally ridiculous. Now temporarily imbuing channels in other characters at increased costs is also strong, but great for the cleric player and tactics. Not all feats herein are bad: Casting a spell with target “you” as a move action by expending spell-level channel energy and not requiring somatic components or provoking AoOs is a great idea. Alas, the execution – so, does this expend the spell as well? What if a spell has a duration of e.g. an hour, can I still cast it in one move action? It’s glitches like this that ruin per se promising mechanics. E.g. using wis-mod with divine bolt instead of dex-mod makes sense – though personally, I think channel is governed by charisma, not wisdom. I get the intent, but it dilutes the attribute-ability-alignment.

Improved versatile channeling of alternate channel effects etc. is nice, as is the option to choose more variant channeling channel types. The pdf does come with extensive favored class options for all CORE and ARG races. The FCos are generally cool.

 

Hereafter, the pdf provides 7 rough concepts (no stats, mainly fluff of god, alignment, race etc.) for different cleric types and some nods towards other 3pp resources for clerics.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are fine, but on a mechanical level, I can only wonder which balance measure was applied to some of these options. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column , mostly b/w-standard with thematically fitting stock art. The pdf comes excessively hyperlinked and bookmarked for your convenience.

 

The cleric is a strange case of a class – on the one hand, it needs help and on the other, it doesn’t. What I mean by this is: The cleric already is one of the strongest classes in PFRPG and I’ll fight anyone who claims otherwise. I’ve had years upon years of overpowered clerics in my campaigns and I know what these guys can do. On the other hand, clerics also need help – because they usually fail at their given role as a divine caster – they don’t feel like pious casters, but rather like general casters with the divine label slapped on. To add insult to injury, the poor clerics often have to go into the role of the heal/buffbot and you have to be a particular kind of person to enjoy this. So in that regard I think the class needs help.

 

The variant channeling rules from Paizo helped a bit, and takes like Rite Publishing’s Divine Channeler (who makes for a ridiculously powerful healer with the right feats, btw.) have made this heal-boting more interesting. So what makes this one interesting? A) The simply channel energy for bonuses – elegant, cool, nice.

 

A stroke of brilliance is imho the divine bolt, but damn, it NEEDS to replace regular AoE channel energy to not be utterly overpowered. Even as a replacement, it makes almost all heal-spells up to their highest echelons obsolete – even before the new feats.

 

Which just…take me on the same rollercoaster ride. High in concept, many of these do not survive even casual contact with math. Balance curls up in the corner and cries, as utterly op feat after op feat, all with cool, shiny, high-concept ideas, start curbstomping it till it stops moving. And on the other hand, some feats herein actually work fine. You either get a winner or a total trainwreck. I do pity all DMs who allowed these feats sans restrictions in their game. And the worst thing is – there is NOT ONE piece of content herein that cannot be salvaged. NOT ONE. These almost universally are *so* close to working in awesome ways. And then go wrong. A talented designer/DM who wishes to make these work can easily do so, but as written, the content herein is simply op. It is obvious that no one here has even bothered to check average damage healed/output scenarios and it’s a pity – for if this had received the polish it lacks, we’d be looking at a cleric that is superior in every single way without being broken.

 

The Reforged Cleric still is not a bad pdf – yes, every sense of even remotest notions of balancing would be misplaced here, but this beast offers a *LOT* of excellent ideas to scavenge, modify and introduce to your game. So if you’re looking for something to tinker with and be inspired by, this delivers. If you’re looking for a balanced replacement of the cleric, then this is not for you, surpassing even Rite Publishing’s very strong Divine Channeler by quite a stretch. This has been a depressing affair for me and I sincerely hope that Brian Berg one day fixes the utterly overpowered components. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform. If you’re looking for idea-scavenging, add +1 star.

 

You can get this pdf here on OSB and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 062014
 

101 Not So Random Encounters: Forest Kingdom

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This pdf clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a more than massive array of 45 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

The 101 Not So Random Encounters-series has been a delight to read – beyond just adding certain creatures, it provides iconic creatures and NPCs, ranging throughout the CRs (in this case from CR 23 to CR 1/3). The basic, central benefit of these encounters, though, would be that they essentially tell a story that is linked, should you choose to use them in conjunction.

 

While the statblock of the CR 23 Vine creature hamadryad druid 8, Vessa Broadleaf, may be a glorious build, what makes this book awesome goes beyond that – she essentially is the mastermind behind the conspiracy of which the respective encounters are components and each of the individual encounters tie in with others, making this essentially a massive, huge collection of diverse encounters that, by design can be woven into a tapestry of a campaign…or a subplot thereof.

 

Which brings me to the second component of this pdf one should know about – the campaign-spanning meta-plot implied by these encounters ties in perfectly with Kingmaker – this is an AP-plug-in if ever there was one. Especially in Kingmaker, this makes sense – with a metaplot that takes a backseat in favor of Kingdom-building rules, the interwoven encounters, when applied to the AP, net a sense of cohesion of the metaplot that is not particularly pronounced in the otherwise great AP.

 

Now don’t get me wrong – the massive conspiracy (which I try to avoid spoiling in this review), can stand on its own – this supplement essentially delivers enough plot to act as a whole, full-blown campaign. Now another thing I can tell you without spoiling the awesome writing, would be the fact that not all encounters belong to the same monolithic entity of an organization – rather than that, some of the creatures herein are generally opposed to one another, with an array of them serving as foils and red herrings for the true end-game of the hamadryad.

 

Beyond a neat assortment of cool encounters and fluff-only write-ups, we also, quite often, in fact, receive cool and relatively complex statblocks…and unique creatures. What about Mandragora swarms? Or the dread irlgaunt? What about an accelerated giant swamp eel or the Blodeunwedd with their allergen auras? Fiendish plants that collapse into brown mold? It should also be noted that a two-page appendix reprints e.g. Black Rots and Living Lakes for those not owning ToHC, making the pdf rather user-friendly.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RiP’s 2-column full-color standard, with nice borders of a thematically-fitting extract of stock art. The pdf comes with a plethora of different full color artworks that fit the theme. I have not seen any of the artworks before in other publications, so kudos for that.

 

Mike Welham’s massive collection of encounters is perhaps the single most inexpensive, easy way to make the Kingmaker AP more awesome – and its essentially a rough draft for a whole AP in one neat book. It’s functionality does not end there, though, for thankfully the ideas for these glorious encounters can easily be scavenged for just about any woodland/forest/swampy environment, taken apart – even on their own, the encounters rock. I did my very best to prevent spoiling the meat of these awesome encounters, but rest assured this collection is simply glorious – and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval . This vastly improves Kingmaker et al. and should be considered one of the best bang-for-buck-ratios to improve an AP.

 

You can get this awesome, inexpensive supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Oct 062014
 

Faerie Mysteries

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This pdf clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 2 pages of introduction/editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

One problem fey-based modules have when faced with my standards regarding fey is that the creatures ought to be familiar, yet weird, strange, yet familiar – and that a sense of otherworldly timelessness ought to pervade an encounter with fey – something rather difficult (at least from what I’ve seen…) to accomplish. The introduction and the respective concerns shows a concern for that otherworldly intrusion into reality we consider weird, of what makes fey strange and dangerous -and the rules follow up:

 

A new type of hazard is introduced to represent this weirdness, so-called fey impulses, which are categorized into 3 types, from rumors, to ripples and ruptures, each adheres to a different severity, with rumors being similar to figments and glamers and the more powerful fey impulses also influencing the mind of those subjected to them. Akin to traps or haunts, fey impulses may be quenched before they manifest, only they do require a different resource – enchantments and illusions, as the types of magic mostly associated with fey, are instead used to represent the forces to quell the fey impulse and, much like a haunt, it may re-manifest unless it is defeated for good.

 

Now such a system of course needs comprehensive guidelines for the DM to implement and this delivers in spades in that regard, without expecting the DM to do all the work – from CR 1/2 to CR 10, quite an array of options is provided – from a bridge automatically extolling its tithe to a dread hangman’s tree emitting waves of all-encompassing despair to a maze in a maze (be sure to read Shirley Jackson’s modern classic “The Sundial” for a great idea on how to narrate this one’s effect…), the respective impulses are awesome, but by no means everything contained within these pages.

 

A total of 22 events with codified rules are contained herein – think of these as either bullet-point encounters or even adventures -from nods to “The Great God Pan” to essentially a Rybalka’s narrative in a box to a mansion inhabited by a possible bride to the fey to a fey’s version of Neddful Things – the ideas contained in these pages are massive and extensive and all but the most burnt-out DMs ought to be inspired by one or more of these – and my skirting around the peculiars of these (and the impulses) is intentional: I do not want to spoil these.

 

Faeire Creatures ought to be unpredictable, and thus we also are introduced to some variants – take the blackthorn dryad, who is essentially a dryad/kyton mix (including cool, unique signature abilities), the beautiful Green Hag variant Harionna who may fight with dread hooks embedded in her hair (!!!) or the Stormkarl Nixie, bound to a waterfall and emitting those that hear his laments – and yes, fellow aficionados of Scandinavian myths might be grinning right now.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ elegant 2-column full-color standard for Kingmaker plug-ins, though it should be noted that this supplement, more than others, can enrich just about every campaign. The copious amounts of awesome full color artworks are nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and hyperlinked, here and there even to inspiring reading material.

 

I did not expect to like this. After the somewhat mediocre Faerie Passions, I postponed reviewing this to kingdom come and when one patron made a generous donation on my site and asked me to review a couple of Mythic Minis and Mythic Monsters, I made these my priority for LG-files. Well, here I am now and Todd Stewart, Jason Nelson and Alistair Rigg have actually done it – this is one exceedingly glorious, awesome supplement, a hazard toolbox par excellence that is intelligent, cool and iconic – a supplement that can enrich ANY module featuring fey. Breathing the proper sense of weirdness, fey impulses are a simple idea that is easy to grasp and brilliant at the same time, with both toolkit and samples given being just awesome. The variant creatures make for nice icings on this awesome cake and while personally, I would have loved to see even more impulses, I won’t hold this against the pdf. Any DM running e.g. “Courts of the Shadow Fey” or similar glorious fey-themed modules should consider this a must-have purchase – 5 stars + seal of approval, given without even a the slightest hesitation.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 062014
 

Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Groves

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This installment of Raging Swan Press’ new Alternate Dungeon-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So what is this? Well, we’ve all been there – the oomphteenth cavern/dungeon/mine is only so exciting to explore – sometimes, one needs a change of scenery – and exactly that would be the task of this pdf – it begins with the general scene-setting: Whether by the powers of druids, fey or what have you not – mystic groves are essentially forest dungeons that require special considerations – like flight, the dimension and location of trees, etc. – something the pdf manages to address nicely, while also providing additional complications like making the dungeon sport a confounding haze that limits sight, render the trees intelligent (and the dungeon thus mobile…ouch!) etc.

 

Beyond these basic considerations, the tracking, underbush, natural hazards, a table of detection DCs to be noticed by wandering monsters while fighting – the advice given is concise, solid and helps prevent glaring oversights that might otherwise have resulted in face-palm-worthy moments.

 

Now suggestions for appropriate treasure in the guise of materials and alchemical ingredients are provided alongside 3 suggested functions to serve as the reason why the place exists in the first place. Now the cool thing about the dressing table would be that suggested DCs to harvest them are provided – 40-entry-strong (plus an entry for roll twice/thrice) can be found here – from fruit growing animals to crystalline growths to animals being born here with DR, the respective entries have more tie-ins with mechanics than in the dressing-pdfs – which is a good thing in this context.

 

beyond these, we also receive quite an extensive list of suggested adversaries to use to populate the grove, while suggested traps (including two new ones) allow you to further modify the dungeon alongside glyph of warding-duplicating mold and similar hazards. Should you require further inspiration- while one should probably be called “BLightbringer”, not “BRightbringer”, the three general hooks are nice.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, but not as flawless as I’ve come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to RSP’s elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks as well as fully bookmarked. Additionally, you receive two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one optimized for the printer.

 

Alexander Augunas’ Mystic Groves are cool – the general idea-kit/tool.kit provided herein make constructing a truly uncommon dungeon relatively easy on the DM and the wealth of ideas is pronounced and nice. However, as an early installment in the series, I also feel that this pdf could have used an additional piece or two – expanded terrain-features to drop in, especially efficient tactics (by PCs and adversaries) to be wary of – something like this. As written, this is an inspiring little toolkit, but one that falls a bit short of perfection and what it could have been. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.