Aug 182017
 

After School Adventures: Adventures in Wonderland #4 – A Message for the Duchess

The fourth part of the adventure series for the youngest of players (I’d recommend the series for ages 4 – 6, 8 at most) clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, ½ page advertisement, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This adventure is designed for 2nd level characters and was moved up in my review-queue at the request of my patreons as a prioritized review.

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The White Rabbit is up to his usual shenanigans – while being late, he panics and inadvertently locks the Duchess out of her own castle! It’ll be up to the players to provide the proper means for the distressed Duchess – who promptly and hilariously collapses into a chair while mumbling about rewards. The PCs have to open the door on the front and may encounter their first trap here – as a minor aside, damage type is not specified for triggering the trap. This, however, remains a minor glitch and the exploration is pretty cool:

 

From a bouncy step stairs to the gigantic ball pit that hides baby mimics (lavishly rendered in a neat piece of artwork!) and acts as an easy way to teach difficult terrain to players, to a tunnel maze, where you can hone the listening skills of the kids, the challenges are proper and pretty cool for kids. What about a room with teleporting tiles and mirror rays, flying hammerhead-shark like things with reflective skin. The absolute highlight of this evocative dungeon-crawl, though, would be a fun puzzle about tapping bunnies, providing a simple, color-coded puzzle. …too simple? Well, here is what sets this apart from lesser offerings. Perhaps you are one of the fortunate parents whose kids are really far advanced, gifted, interested in math, etc. – an alternate, pretty tough (for a kid’s module) math-based version is included for you! This really, really made me smile! And yes, hints and means to help solving the puzzles are provided.

 

Oh, and the pdf closes with a cool magic item: An enchanted stuffed teddy-bear that you can put down to attack nearby foes! And yes, its rules have been covered in a concise manner.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a GORGEOUS two-column full-color standard with the rabbit and Cheshire cat included as part of the layout. The pdf comes with neat, original full-color artworks and fully bookmarked for your convenience. The dungeon-complex map comes as a cool one-page print-out version that is player-friendly –not even the secret door is spoiled when you use it.

 

It’s been a while since I reviewed one of these and the waiting has really helped here. This is, by FAR, the best of the modules in this series: Each encounter is diverse, creative and perfect for younger audiences; each encounter has something interesting to offer. J Gray’s puzzle difficulties, hints and challenges herein really work well and each room sports another creative challenge, testing brains and brawns. The optional challenge-increase for truly gifted kids just adds icing to the awesome-cake. This is well worth getting and even if you’re mostly sitting out the series in favor of Playground Adventures’ other modules, contemplate getting this –with a bit of tweaking, this may well work for older kids as well. (Oh, and yes, you can make it a creepy module for adults, though it’ll require being upgraded regarding its difficulty.) This is really, really good – my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval!

 

You can get this cool module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 182017
 

Play Your Character Like a Fucking Boss (system neutral)

This advice book clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis glyph inside of front cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, two of which are taken up by nice pieces of b/w-artwork, so let’s take a look!

 

It’s interesting, really – while there are plenty of GM books around, there are almost no player advice books. Sure, more math-intense systems have a lot of optimization guides, but what many folks forget, is that a good game is as much reliant on having great players as on having a great GM. Anyone who has played in a a Living Campaign will probably nod knowingly right then and there – I know that it took some seriously horrendous experiences gaming with strangers to appreciate my main campaign and faithful cadre of players…and similarly, playing with strangers did highlight the strengths and weaknesses of my own players…but that as an aside.

 

This pdf, thus, is focused on player advice and as such can be considered to be a companion booklet to Venger’s massive GM-advice book. The introduction to the matter at hand will most certainly sound true for many of us: Being a socially awkward person most certainly applies o many folks I’ve seen gaming…but at the same time, as the pdf notes, actually playing sans fear can help mitigate this factor. The pdf also notes that roleplaying is not supposed to be “blowing off steam” – well, it can actually have beneficent effects, reduce aggression, etc. – but at the same time, while it can have the therapeutic and benevolent effects on one’s psyche, roleplaying is a collective experience and trying to resolve one’s own psychic baggage while playing can compromise the fun of the group. The analogue ultimately taken here would be that of the lion tamer and lions – the GM being the lion tamer, the PCs the lions. While the metaphor may not apply perfectly, it suffices to convey the intent.

 

The pdf does explain how the GM is reliant on the players and how the players can attempt to be awesome, to wow the GM: These pieces of advice are actually very helpful: Not hogging the spotlight and making it count; attempting to move the plot forward, adhering to genre, staying in character, thinking creatively, using humor (hint: Endless, mood-breaking Monty Python references are not using humor properly…) and being badass. Compelling attention via the character is covered by 3 tenets based on the writing of LaVey, namely sex, sentiment and wonder – while there is no disputing their efficiency, I’d argue that, cleanly defined though they be, not all groups will be comfortable with them…and frankly, it seems very reductionist as far as I’m concerned.

 

One the more generally applicable list of things that is really helpful would be a brief character background checklist: What’s the occupation? Family? Hobbies? Ideological leanings? Any affiliations? And, taking a cue from 13th Age, the One Unique Thing your character should have, a distinguishing characteristic, birthmark, whatever. From there, we move on to considering defining internally what kind of person the character is and then take a look at three character archetypes, from loud and cool to quiet strength, with the third man in the middle, examples from pop-culture to drive home the respective points. Personally, I wished that this section could do without them, if only for file longevity’s sake, but that as an aside. The pdf also makes a case strongly in favor of sandbox gaming, as a very much player-driven experience – which is something I generally like, though some advice for players on how to keep such a game moving in the long term could help – in my experience, the main issue with sandbox campaigns tend to be the lulls when players at one point either don’t have clear goals or no idea of how to reach them. While this can be offset by a good GM, the number of sandbox campaigns I’ve seen fizzle out does mean that the like would probably have merited closer inspection.

 

On the plus side, if the GM is using bad hooks, the pdf champions telling this, fostering communication…but at the same time, it is easy to forget that some players, alas, take this to the logical extreme, feeling entitled for a custom hook for “their” motivation…which can bury a campaign, so a bit more nuance here would have been nice. Though, on a plus-side,the importance of communicating likes and dislikes is emphasized. How to properly improvise as a player, the rules of courtesy and appreciation for the GM are also noted…as is the fact that no GM, no group, can always be non-stop amazing…things even out, and that is okay…and using this acceptance to also gauge one’s own spotlight makes sense.

 

As an aside, ½ a page is used extolling the virtues of the OSR and how the author feels about aspects, splicing some advertisement in the section as well. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of such entries – while I get that an advice-book like this is bound to be opinionated aspects, I do not like the notion of bad fun/doing it wrong and this bleeds in some aspects here. Not too jarringly, mind you, but it does take up about half a page, which could imho have been filled better, considering the brevity of the file.

 

On the plus-side, the etiquette championed for playing (no mobile device check-ups, etc.) is something I dearly wished all players took to heart.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard with icky veins (neat!) and the pdf comes with a printer-friendly, second version – kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience (again: Kudos!), in spite of its brevity. The b/w-artworks of interior art are amazing.

 

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ advice-booklet for players is nice; it is a helpful file to consider, it spells out many of the things that make players better and roleplaying with them more rewarding. At the same time, I do believe that the brevity of this booklet hurts its mission, namely because it fails to address the elephant in the room regarding player advice: You are not alone. While the booklet addresses a LOT of the dynamics between GM and players, it does not so much as begin to elaborate upon interaction between players and PCs. From this in my opinion crucial oversight stem potential issues: If every PC is “a fucking boss”, simply not hogging the spotlight alone doesn’t cut it – while player personality discrepancies help, ultimately, we have the issue that e.g. demanding proper tailored hooks can lead to conflicting notions of entitlement between players. Similarly, having too many iterations of one archetype is not necessarily conductive to a fulfilling experience. In short: The dynamics of the group and how to be a better player within the confines of that group, are not touched upon to a sufficient extent.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not a bad advice-pdf by any definition of the word and its content can prove to be rather helpful. It is generally well-presented etc. – but it does fall short of providing the level of coverage and insight I expected after the rather neat GM-book. As a whole, this can be considered to be a nice advice pdf for the player as a singular entity interacting with the GM, but not for the player as part of a social entity interacting with the GM. For me as a person, this represents a serious drawback. As a person, this was a 3 star-file for me; however, as a reviewer, I have an in dubio pro reo policy, and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 182017
 

5E Mini-Dungeon: Mysteries of the Endless Maze (5e)

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

 

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

 

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

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Still here?

All right!

This is a ready to use portal-maze, but one with a twist: Upon entering one of the segments, you roll 1d4; on a 1, the segment’s challenge is a riddle; #2 is a trap (4 of which are presented), #3 is a random monster (6 of which are available) and if a riddle is solved, the PCs can get one of 4 prizes. The riddles presented are brief, but not the lame old classics you will have seen before…unless you’re really, really into riddles. If a segment of the maze has been completed, its portals activate. Critters defeated carry keystones and ultimately, these can be used to access the vault, where the nasty boss of the complex is awaiting alongside the sizable treasure. As a minor complaint, only the defeat of monsters will actually net keystones, which could have been handled slightly more flexibly. As a minor nitpick, I did notice a line of text missing blank spaces.

 

Conclusion:

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

 

Justin Andrew Mason’s Mysteries of the Endless Maze is an amazing little puzzle-dungeon; it is not one of the annoying mazes that just frustrates players and has a smooth, nice progression rate, at least in my game it had. That being said, one minor nitpick is that you should carefully read how the dungeon works; due to the limited word-count available, its precise functions require a slight bit more observation on part of the GM. Not that it’s opaque, mind you. The dungeon also has a nice replay value and whether as a maze in Sigil, as a sub-level, as the BBEG effing with the players – the complex has a ton of uses and can be inserted literally at any time and any place.

 

Kyle Crider’s conversion to 5E manages to retain the cool nature of this dungeon and the foes are chosen well – though the massive loot the PCs can gain may be a bit overkill for the more conservative 5E-GMs out there…but that is cut down easily enough.

 

All in all, a well-crafted mini-dungeon worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

 

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

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Aug 172017
 

The Ability Variations (Castle Falkenstein)

This supplemental rules-pdf for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ ½ page of SRD, leaving us with 8.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, after a brief framing narration by Tom Olam (which resurfaces in the respective sub-chapters), we begin with the first of several tweaks to the base engine of Castle Falkenstein – in this instance, we’re introduced to the Specialization variant: Instead of general Ability capabilities, the system allows you to take a Good or Great ability and trade it in for Specializations, a number equal to ½ the value of the traded ability, with Good being worth 3, Great being worth 4 specializations. Specializations can be applied to any Ability in which the character is Poor or Average – the specialization increases the Ability by one step for the purpose of performing Feats that relate to the Specialization in question. Thankfully, a massive table (greater than 1 page!) provides sample specializations and also provides synergy with the great Tarot Variation suits – so no, you’re not left guessing regarding how narrow you should design Specializations. It should also be noted that compatibility with Comme Il Faut is maintained.

 

The second variation featured within the pdf would be the divorce variation, which once again features compatibility with the Tarot Variation. Each Ability is governed by a playing card suit, but with this variation, the Abilities allow for players making an argument of why a given suit may apply its bonus to a given task – in two variations: Half and full value. There is some value in this – you will probably be able to perform at an increased efficiency. However, while the Host remains the final arbitrator of what you can do, I really don’t like this one – it smells of FATE and competitive BSing to me, but, obviously, your mileage may vary and thankfully, we are the final instance that decides which of the rules herein to use and which not to – this will find its fans and it makes the game easier and while, as a person, I don’t care for it, as a reviewer, I can appreciate its appeal.

 

The final variation would be the improvement variation: In this variation, dramatic characters improve by spending Improvement Points. Hosts are guided in detail: You determine Deeds during the adventure, a kind of important waypoint and determine an Improvement Point value for such Deeds. Beyond the confines of adventures, dramatic characters may try to earn Improvement Points via Resolutions, which can be completed, but take time to complete, with each character getting one of these – the Resolutions can be similarly broken down into Deeds, with samples provided. The resolution allows, in a way, for downtime activity: Players really invested in their Dramatic Characters can thus be rewarded for e.g. writing copious amounts of prose – or you can simply control character power thus or provide an illusion of cohesion beyond the confines of the gaming sessions.

 

Once earned, Improvement Points can be spent to improve Abilities (cost being equal to the Ability’s new value). When also using Specializations, they can be used to purchase Specializations, which cost 6 points. An alternate for faster growth of dramatic characters can also be found, with decreased costs – and since the metrics are pretty simple, tweaking the variation remains very simple. If you’re concerned about justifying Improvement in-game, the pdf does provide guidance in that arena.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to fat Goblin Games’ elegant, really neat 2-column full-color artwork. The pdf features fitting stock-art and sports no bookmarks – due to its brevity, it does get a pass there.

 

Mister J Gray LOVES Castle Falkenstein – as much becomes evident in every single of his supplements. The means by which this establishes a continuity with the venerable original Castle Falkenstein books is amazing, and so is the quality. The variant rules presented herein for a measly buck allow you to tweak the playing experience very well and net an interesting array of customization options for the game. I hope the Talsorian-crew reads these reviews and lets the Fat Goblin Games-crew update the Castle Falkenstein-core books in a new edition – if anything, all these variations really make me crave a big, new and shiny book. This is a fun offering, it is VERY inexpensive and thus gains a final verdict of 5 stars.

 

You can get these cool variant rules for a single buck here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 172017
 

A Friend in Need (5e)

This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved forward on my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

 

First of all, before I go into details: This module is intended for a younger audience – basically, this is intended to be a very kid-friendly module. To be more precise, for the age-range of about ~ 6 years. I ran the module in my playtest with a mixed group spanning the ages of 4 – 11 and the players that had most fun were those in the lower ages, so personally, I’d suggest this approximately for ages 4 – 8.

 

The adventure does take into account the changed requirements of the target demographic – namely by calling out when a good time for a break would be, when to guide them by incorporating suggestions into your “What do you do?”-questions, when to explain the discrepancy between character and player-knowledge…the like.

For parents not sure whether their kids can handle “killing” adversaries, an alternate wording is provided as well, with the defeated “returning home.” The copious amounts of advice provided are generally not only welcome additions, they tend to be very sound.

 

Distribution of candy/gummibears used as monster-substitutes on the map is a pretty sound advice, since it prevents instances of jealousy and kill steals, while still providing immediate gratification. Puzzles, where included, do mention less complex alternatives for younger audiences and means for the GM to make how items work immediately evident-

 

All right! Children/players, in case you’re reading this, please jump to the conclusion. No one likes a cheater and I’m going to explain the adventure now. If you continue reading, you’ll only make the adventure boring for yourselves and have an unfair advantage that will be noticed by your GM. Please do what’s right and jump to the conclusion.

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The monastery of the monks of the kneeling wind is a tribute to the elements and, visually inspired by Japanese aesthetics, well-represented by a truly beautiful full-color map. Alas, all things must end, and so did the time of the monks – and after they were gone, the crystal dragon Azhuryx chose this place to rear her precious wyrmling Kurisutaru. Alas, once again, trouble brewed and the mother dragon did not return from a hunt, leaving Kurisutaru terribly bored with only the companion soulbound doll left for him, yet cautious of strangers. One day, Kurisutaru saw a child folding origami and was left overjoyed when he saw dragons among the figures crafted – he thus swooped down to talk with the magical prodigy Azumi, who, in a panic, conjured forth an origami crane (made possible via the new spell, which has been properly converted to 5e) and sent it forth – said crane is what jumpstarts the module in earnest, as the PCs happen to find the origami swan and read the cry for help on it.

 

In order to reach the monastery, the PCs have to start climbing the mountain (a great way to btw. use the exhaustion mechanics) and on site, the exploration can commence – the PCs can for example brave the most huggable earth elemental I can imagine. It should also be noted that the research and prior knowledge, when player and PC-knowledge diverge, can allow for an easy and painless teaching of 5e’s relatively simple skill rules-

 

A Wisteria tree whispers to the PCs that the key to Azumi’s location is hidden in the koi pond and indeed, swimming in can yield it. Underwater, the PCs encounter a friendly, awakened koi who breathes bubbles on them and wants to talk to them: He’ll give them the key, if they answer a simple riddle. This would be as good a place as any to note that the statblocks of the wondrous creatures encountered have been converted rather well to 5e’s mechanics.

 

Beyond the moon-viewing tower, there are animated dog statuettes that may attack. In PF, these statuettes were pretty strong, but in 5e, they, at least to me, represent a missed chance. You see, 5e very much focuses on a sensible rock-paper-scissors-type of gameplay with the variant damage-types, resistances and vulnerabilities: Making the dogs resistant to e.g. slashing and piercing weapons would have been a nice way to teach the kids about these mechanics. It’d also make sense and is something most groups would get right from the get-go: Back in the day, my PCs simply assumed that skeletons would not be susceptible to piercing, for example – it makes sense. Alternatively, a vulnerability would have made sense…but that is me nitpicking.

 

The PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against the spirit of a non-evil undead weapon master of the monks in honorable combat. In the lavishly-rendered map of the complex beneath the monastery, a Sudoku-puzzle beckons alongside a friendly test of the PCs, focused on whether they can distinguish reality from illusion, while another requires balancing on a rope to swing a bell…in an interesting twist, the spectral teachers of the monks may provide guidance in-game to stumped players. This is btw. also where disadvantage and the like come into play more.

 

Combat-challenges include dealing with the dragon’s overprotective soulbound doll and some animated objects – here, we do have the resistances, but they apply to all physical damage types – and PCs of level 1 are really limited regarding their magical arsenal, so this section can take a bit longer. A centipede whose poison can cause paralysis upon reducing a PC to 0 hp is another minor snag…or rather, something that could have been solved a bit more smoothly: You see, the pdf does contain a logo-less version of the cover artwork in b/w- yep, like in a coloring book. So, one way to help a player pass the time while the PC is paralyzed would be: “Color this page, when you’re done, you’re fully healed!” – unless, of course, the other PCs heal their comrade first.

 

When the PCs finally happen upon the dragon, they’ll think they have a deadly fight on their hands…but Azumi intervenes and the PCs have a chance to make friends with the dragon, the positive modifiers of which btw. also entail playing a game of hide and seek with the dragon…and hopefully convey to him that kidnapping others, no matter how well-intentioned, is not a good way to make friends. In the end, though, capable PCs will probably leave on Azumi’s origami riding cranes, with Kurisutaru’s friendship bracelet for a fine, tasty dinner at Azumi’s house – who now has a friend most unique. As a minor complaint, the rules-language of the crane mentions maneuverability, which does not exist in 5e.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a Japanese-looking, beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book provides ample of child-friendly artwork from the pen by Jacob Blackmon -more so than in many modules of this size, rendering it a nice, visual treat. The unified and beautiful style also extends to the gorgeous cartography by Travis Hanson, which also features player-friendly versions that you can print out, cut up and hand out to them as they go! Extra kudos for including those!!

 

Jenny Jarzabski and BJ Hensley have already proven that they can make good crunch; however, as it turns out, they can also write captivating modules. “A Friend in Need” is a great first module for the small ones, breathing a bit of the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies and the innocence conveyed therein. It is not perfect in the 5e-version, but Dan Dillon, being the expert that he is at 5e content, has translated the module very well to the system, ironing out some of the hiccups in the original. At the same time, I do feel that it is, system-immanently evident that the original design was for PFRPG – there are a couple of 5e-rules that could, didactically, be highlighted better. This does not mean that the conversion’s bad, mind you – it’s really good! But it comes close to transcending the original iteration sans making the leap.

 

Let me state that clearly: The module does a lot things right: The flavor is child-friendly. Even the spirits of the monks, which may evoke a slight sense of creepiness (in a good way), still provide more aid than hindrance. The challenges are diverse and the inclusion of social encounters, riddles and puzzles make sure that the players actually are challenged in more than one way, which is a good thing in any module, particularly so in one intended for kids.

 

Now personally, I do believe that even small kids can handle a bit more threat and danger than this module featured (see e.g. the pretty serious themes of fear of loss and reorientation in “My Neighbor Totoro”, for comparison), but I will not hold that against the pdf. It should be noted that I ran the original version with a 4-year-old among the players and the module proved fitting for children this young as well, while the kids in the age-range of 8 and beyond would have liked a bit more grit.

 

Now the good thing here is that, should you not endeavor to cater to a crowd as diverse as I did in my playtest, you’ll have no issue slightly increasing the creepy-factor of the benevolent monk-spirits. In my playtest, I added some minor creepy-dressing to them and thus managed to engage the kids even more – if you heed this advice, though, please make sure you know what your players are comfortable with – a tiny scare is okay, but not more.

 

How to rate this, then? Now that’s the tricky part: You see, I very much believe that we need more modules like this and Dan Dillon delivers in the conversion.

 

I have vastly benefited from my roleplaying in both terms of foreign languages, vocabulary, problem-solving and social skills and the sooner we can get such a positive development going, the better. At the same time, I am somewhat hesitant of awarding this per se very good module my highest accolades – I think somewhat more pronounced tweaks to account for and teach system-peculiarities (backgrounds, for example!) could have heaved this to the levels of excellence.

In the end, we are left with one well-crafted module for young children that does not lose any aspect of its appeal in 5e. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for this. While the original version was rounded up due to being Playground Adventures freshman offering, I, alas, cannot extend this courtesy to this version.

 

You can get this well-made conversion here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 172017
 

Additional Fight Clubs for the Pugilist Class (5e)

This expansion for the pugilist class clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This pdf was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

 

The first of these fight clubs would be the Arena Royale – which creates an alternate persona. You make a Charisma (Disguise Kit) check at advantage. Creatures with passive Insight lower than that result will not recognize the character and unarmored AC is increased to 10 + Dexterity and Constitution modifier. 6th level may be a bit much: While in the alternate persona, you may make a Charisma (Performance) check to instill adoration or fear – all creatures within 30 ft that can see you must succeed a Wisdom save to avoid being charmed or frightened for 1 minute, with a long rest to recharge. Compare that to charm person, which has a fixed limit based on spell level used. That could use some nerfing. Why not tie the number of affected targets to proficiency bonus? Also, RAW, it does not end the charm effect upon being attacked, affects ALL creature types. This ability, in short, needs clarification and nerfing. Restricting affected targets, moxie point cost and decreased efficiency would make sense.

 

11th level yields +10 ft. speed when in persona, tripled jump distance and bonus action Dash – which probably should cost a moxie point. 17th level provides the ultimate mook sweeper: Signature move lets you jump into the air and smash down on a target – you crit if you hit and stun the target, no save (!!) – and you only expend it (requires a long rest to recharge) if you do not reduce the target to 0 hp.

 

The second fight club would be the bloodhound bruisers, who are basically martial detectives – 3rd level yields the options to spend moxie points for advantage on Intelligence (Investigation), Wisdom (Perception) in settlements or Wisdom (Insight) to determine when someone’s lying. 6th level provides a Sherlock Holmes movie style “in your head” planning, represented by Wisdom saves contested by Intelligence (Investigation), moxie-based attack evasion and moxie-based analysis of enemies (if they fail a save). 11th level allows you to attune yourself to a city: You cannot be surprised and add proficiency bonus to initiative; darkvision 120 ft; doubled proficiency bonus for aforementioned investigative skills and double movement rate to travel when not in combat. The doubled proficiency to skills used to negate attacks etc. is very potent and something I’d nerf. 17th level lets you spend 3 moxie points as a bonus action to get free access to all moxie-based features – no cost for 1 minute. OUCH. This tries to duplicate the Sherlock Holmes from the popular movies and I really like it for that, even though I consider it to be honestly a bit over the top regarding its power. The evasion tricks are better than those of comparable fight clubs.

 

The final option would be Salt & Vinegar, which gains an ability to infuriate targets via moxie-spiced insults, basically drawing agro and imposing disadvantage on attack rolls of targets not attacking you…oh, and the creature takes psychic damage. 6th level provides 3 moxie-based tricks to temporarily blind foes, slow them or knock them prone. 11th level increases the save DC for the insult by 2 and eliminates the moxie point cost for the insult….which means infinite psychic damage, which is almost never resisted. Not a fan. 17th level nets you the option to, as a bonus action, expend 3 moxie or enrage a target, forcing it to attack you. All in all, not a fan. Seen insults done better.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to the PHB’s 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides nice artworks by Ners and Alys Flock. The pdf has bookmarks, in spite of its brevity – kudos! Also nice: A printer-friendly version is included!

 

Benjamin Huffman’s new fight clubs for the already potent pugilist class leave me torn – on one hand, I love the Sherlock Holmes-inspired club…but the base class already is stronger than the monk…and these pretty much one-up the options. I have some concerns regarding all three fight clubs and they feel, as a whole, less refined to me than the options provided in the base book. That being said, this is PWYW as for higher-powered games, this may well work out. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

 

You can get this expansion for PWYW here on DM’s Guild!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 172017
 

The Pugilist Base Class (5e)

The pugilist base class presented herein clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover/editorial, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

 

The pugilist base class presented here gets 1d8 HD and proficiency in light armor, simple weapons, improvised weapons, whip and hand crossbow as well as artisan tools, gaming set or thieves’ tools. The class is proficient in both Strength and Constitution saves and you may choose two skills from Athletics, Acrobatics, Deception, Intimidation, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth.

 

The pugilist gains fisticuffs at first level – a variant of the monk’s Martial Arts feature that increases the base damage die by one step – it begins at 1d6 and scales up to 1d12 for base damage and, akin to Martial Arts, the class feature does not gain the Dexterity modifier substitution. However, when using the Attack action to make an unarmed attack or pugilist weapon attack, you can make an unarmed attack or grapple as a bonus action. As a minor complaint: The rules-language here deviates slightly from the precedence of the monk here. Pugilist weapons are defined as simple weapons without the two-handed property. Weapons used as pugilist weapons do not benefit from the finesse property. Weird: The class gains the whip, but it is RAW not included in the pugilist weapons.

 

The class also uses Constitution modifier instead of Dexterity modifier to determine AC when wearing no armor or light armor, which is pretty potent. This would be as well a place as any to note that the rules-formatting is not always perfect: Attributes here are not capitalized. Starting at second level, you gain moxie points, 2, to be precise – and these are upgraded to up to 12 over the course of the progression of the class. Moxie points are replenished upon completing a short or long rest and three basic uses are presented. As a bonus action, you may spend 1 moxie point and roll your fisticuff dice, add pugilist level and Constitution modifier (why not proficiency bonus instead of class level?) to gain as many temporary hit points. After executing an Attack on your turn, you can spend a point for +2 unarmed strikes as a bonus action. Finally, as a bonus action, you may spend 1 point for a shove attack or Dash. 2nd level also nets you a form of streetsmarts – once you have partied in a settlement for 8 hours, you know the public locations as though born and raised there. Imho, this should have a variable formula to account for settlement sizes. I can see that for thorps etc. – but not for e.g. a metropolis like Sigil. At 13th level, after carousing thus for a night, you btw. gain advantage on Charisma (Persuasion) and Charisma (Intimidation) rolls in that settlement.

 

At 3rd level, when reduced to below ½ maximum hit points, you gain class level + Constitution modifier temporary hit points and regain all spent moxie points. This ability recharges on a short or long rest – and frankly, I think it should only replenish on long rests. At 9th level, you may also add proficiency bonus to damage for one minute when activating the feature, though this damage boost only recharges upon completing a long rest.

 

4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield ability score improvements. Additionally, as a bonus action, you can grant yourself resistance to bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage for 1 minute, but thereafter you gain a level of exhaustion. 5th level yields Extra Attack as well as the option to swing wild haymakers – you may only do that for attacks not suffering from disadvantage, since the ability imposes disadvantage on your attacks, but an attack that does connect hits for maximum die result damage. This is problematic when multiclassing or handling pugilist weapons that add damage dice to the damage caused. The ability would benefit from a caveat that makes it only apply to the fisticuff base damage.

 

At 6th level, unarmed strikes or pugilist weapon attacks are treated as magic and 7th level allows you to use your action to shake off the charmed or frightened conditions. 10th level yields resistance to psychic damage as well as advantage on saves versus the stunned or unconscious condition – weird: Shouldn’t this first apply to the incapacitated condition and then move on to the more potent ones?

 

At 14th level, you gain advantage on all three physical saving throws and whenever you fail a saving throw, you may spend 1 moxie (not even a reaction) point to reroll the save and take the second result. I am not sure whether this rebrand of Diamond Soul’s save rerolls should work for all saves. 15th level doubles carrying capacity, jump height and distance and when dealing damage to an inanimate object, damage is doubled – I assume before damage threshold? Or after that? At 18th level, when you have 4 levels of exhaustion or less and are reduced to 0 hit points, you regain ½ maximum hit points, ½ maximum moxie points and gain a level of exhaustion – with a long rest to recharge. 20th level yields a Strength and Constitution increase by 2 to a maximum of 22 and you recover 2 levels of exhaustion when taking a long rest and you also regain all expended hit dice.

 

At 3rd level, the class may choose a fight club, two of which are included herein. These net features at 3rd, 6th, 11th and 17th level. The first would be the squared circle nets 3 new uses for moxie points for reaction grapple breaks, using reactions in opportunity attacks to grapple foes or add knocking prone to grappling. At 6th level, when grappling, you can use your reaction upon being missed to make the grappled creature take potentially the hit. 11th level makes you count as one size larger for purposes of grappling (ouch!) and allows you to move at full speed while dragging/carrying grappled creatures and 17th level lets you score critical hits on rolls of 19 and 20 against targets you have grappled. Basically, a grapple specialist and its execution is pretty neat indeed.

 

The sweet science would be the second fight club, who learns to spend two moxie points as a reaction to reduce the damage of incoming attacks – once again, using class level as part of the formula, which may cause some purists to scowl. When reudicng an attack to 0 damage, you get a counter attack, which can be pretty cool. 6th level yields the option to, as a bonus action after hitting with the quasi-flurry, add another attack, but only if both attacks of the flurry hit – but interesting: The attack knocks the target prone instead of causing damage. 11th level nets you a regained moxie point when pulling off a counter attack. Due to the moxie cost of counter attempts, this remains kitten-abuse proof. Good! The 17th level ability lets you roll 3d12 + 1d12 per moxie point you expend when hitting a creature – if the result exceeds the creature’s hit points, you knock it unconscious for 10 minutes.

 

The class comes with multiclassing notes, 3 nice pugilist simple weapons as a couple of magic items: unarmored AC-bonus granting magic leather jerkins, an everfull stein (can I please have one IRL?) and the rerolls-granting loaded dice. An amulet grants you more temporary hit points whenever you gain them (which can be problematic), while fist-based weaponry can help dealing with fiends and undead. A rare potion provides a static damage boost for 1 minute and a grappling whip as well as thundering fist weapons can be found. The magic items, while not bad, feel a bit focused on number-bonuses.

 

Oh well, the pdf closes with a sample challenge ½, 3 and 5 NPC making use of some of the rules.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, this is pretty impressive as well, often tackling complex concepts rather well. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard established by the PHB, with solid art-choices. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version –kudos!!

 

Benjamin Huffman, with support by Ners, has created a class for all those folks who want Rocky, not a WuXia dude jumping around. One of my players loves the concept of martial artists, but hates the whole Eastern mysticism etc. – and this delivers. Emphasizing Strength and some SERIOUS damage-soaking abilities, the pugilist presented herein is less flexible and versatile in his tricks than the monk, but more potent at the same time – whether you like that or not is a matter of taste. I actually thought it’d be worse and plays better than I expected – while I am not the biggest fan of using PF’s class levels and basically 4th ed’s bloodied style mechanics to trigger some of the abilities, and while I wished it tried to use formulae akin to those employed by the base classes, but it does work out and this complaint is mostly aesthetic.

 

Note that the class is pretty potent and will eclipse the monk’s straight damage output, but lag behind in other disciplines., and I am not the biggest fan of the magic items presented herein – but the matter of the fact remains that this pdf is PWYW, which allows you to check this out and then judge for yourself whether this is worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars – and while the imperfections would make me usually round down, I’ll round up due to the fair PWYW-offering.

 

You can get this cool class for PWYW here on DM’s Guild!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 162017
 

So, thanks to my friends and the gracious support of some of my readers, I once again have a proper, working PC that does not lag.

 

In fact, I was crazy lucky and found a gamer dad who was selling his machine due to a lack of time to play, so the machine is relatively new, runs smoothly and solidly and is really, really nice.

 

This would not have been possible without you, my dear friends, supporters and readers.

 

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

 

I’ll be working at top speed once more, so please excuse me – instead of gushing, I’ll write as a means to thank you.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 162017
 

Places of Power: Raveneye Sanatorium

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, we all have presumably played an adventure in a Sanatorium, right? At least those of us who enjoy dark fantasy and roleplaying games will know the tropes at this point. There’s a reason for that, and it is mainly due to reality and how we see sanatoriums and the treatment methods employed there – while, from our modern perspective, e.g. lobotomies may look barbaric, not so long ago, they were considered to be a fantastic, extremely humane form of treatment. The advances in medicine have colored our view of these facilities and that bleeds, of course, into the games we play.

 

This modern notion of medicine has influenced and shaped the respective representations of sanatoriums in the fantasy games we play – which btw. is closer to a Early Modern period in mindset and technology than the Medieval Age, but that as an aside. Sanatoriums are a pretty recent innovation, as far as our species is concerned, so we do have, by definition, a sort of anachronism here. At the same time, however, it is surprising that the original spirit of sanatoriums has not really been represented in gaming -the idea of healing the body and mind in an environment conductive for such treatments is something I have only very rarely seen in gaming -perchance due to the prevalence of divine magic. Now, if one takes into account, however, the different afflictions that beings can have in a fantastic context, the institution suddenly makes sense once more – from curses to possessions and worse, there are plenty of afflictions that aren’t easily healed by means of magic. This is where this sanatorium comes in.

 

The institution is headed by a rather brilliant scholar, with further staff being a doctor prone to quick diagnosis, a none-too-nice chief of staff…and the fortified grounds include a garden and some fluffy write-ups for patients – from beings halfway transformed to a skum, kept here to prevent the poor being from going to the ocean, to the possessed, with malignant spirits seeking freedom, the patients here are dangerous…and include benevolent werewolves. Still, with the marketplace section of neat items to purchase and 6 sample rumors (some being nasty and playing to the bad reputation of sanatoriums) as well as 6 events, we have an overall great locale…and if you do want to use this in a more traditional manner, you’re covered – one NPC can be used as a malignant infiltrator and BBEG, if you wish to use the place in a more traditional manner…or if you want to have this place of healing transform…or come under threat.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artwork of the sanitarium is an amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press’ patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

 

David N. Ross’ sanatorium is a great place – it inverts the traditional expectations of such locales in roleplaying games, while still allowing for the use in a traditional context. the characters presented, from the staff to the patients, are similarly colorful, with most being capable of carrying at least a session or sidequest, making this a rewarding place to include in your game. In short, the pdf is great and rewarding for the low and very fair price point. The optional trope inversion adds a nice level to this pdf as well – nothing to complain regarding this gem. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this nice pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 162017
 

Places of Power: Raveneye Sanatorium (system neutral)

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, we all have presumably played an adventure in a Sanatorium, right? At least those of us who enjoy dark fantasy and roleplaying games will know the tropes at this point. There’s a reason for that, and it is mainly due to reality and how we see sanatoriums and the treatment methods employed there – while, from our modern perspective, e.g. lobotomies may look barbaric, not so long ago, they were considered to be a fantastic, extremely humane form of treatment. The advances in medicine have colored our view of these facilities and that bleeds, of course, into the games we play.

 

This modern notion of medicine has influenced and shaped the respective representations of sanatoriums in the fantasy games we play – which btw. is closer to a Early Modern period in mindset and technology than the Medieval Age, but that as an aside. Sanatoriums are a pretty recent innovation, as far as our species is concerned, so we do have, by definition, a sort of anachronism here. At the same time, however, it is surprising that the original spirit of sanatoriums has not really been represented in gaming -the idea of healing the body and mind in an environment conductive for such treatments is something I have only very rarely seen in gaming -perchance due to the prevalence of divine magic. Now, if one takes into account, however, the different afflictions that beings can have in a fantastic context, the institution suddenly makes sense once more – from curses to possessions and worse, there are plenty of afflictions that aren’t easily healed by means of magic. This is where this sanatorium comes in.

 

The institution is headed by a rather brilliant scholar, with further staff being a doctor prone to quick diagnosis, a none-too-nice chief of staff…and the fortified grounds include a garden and some fluffy write-ups for patients – from beings halfway transformed to a skum, kept here to prevent the poor being from going to the ocean, to the possessed, with malignant spirits seeking freedom, the patients here are dangerous…and include benevolent werewolves. Still, with 6 sample rumors (some being nasty and playing to the bad reputation of sanatoriums) as well as 6 events, we have an overall great locale…and if you do want to use this in a more traditional manner, you’re covered – one NPC can be used as a malignant infiltrator and BBEG, if you wish to use the place in a more traditional manner…or if you want to have this place of healing transform…or come under threat. Really nice, btw.: The system neutral version, big plus, actually does come with a marketplace section of goods and services to acquire, which is really nice to see. As a VERY minor nitpick, some NPCs are called “wizards”, not “magic-users.”

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artwork of the sanitarium is an amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press’ patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

 

David N. Ross’ sanatorium is a great place – it inverts the traditional expectations of such locales in roleplaying games, while still allowing for the use in a traditional context. the characters presented, from the staff to the patients, are similarly colorful, with most being capable of carrying at least a session or sidequest, making this a rewarding place to include in your game. In short, the pdf is great and rewarding for the low and very fair price point. The optional trope inversion adds a nice level to this pdf as well – nothing to complain regarding this gem. This pdf doesn’t lose anything in the system neutral iteration, with only aforementioned, very minor terminology hiccup. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.